myHana Library

Original and curated information about autism and related conditions

The robots are coming – and they’re here to help.

Milo, the social robot for autistic learners

Being close with a person on the spectrum means that we’ve all experienced that moment where a toy, game or technology gets picked over spending personal time together. It can be difficult, but that’s the reality of living with autism. Many autistic people have a harder time understanding others, so sometimes it’s just less stressful to spend time with an unemotional object.

And that’s where social robotics may be able to help. Though the theory is still being researched, several robotics companies have developed human-like robots designed to help therapists and teachers teach children without the pressure they might feel with a real live human.

For example, has already helped some autistic children in New York City learn to communicate better. To them, it’s kind of like a tablet, but with a touch of humanity that isn’t so scary or confusing. They can’t get enough. In fact, Milo, another social robot with special facial features that help teach emotion, has helped engage autistic children 70-80% of the time, as opposed to just 3-10%. Leka, yet another robot designed for people with special needs, even uses special sensory techniques, like lights, vibration and music, to keep people playing along. And learning.

Best of all, robots are able to do one thing better than any human: track progress. Some of these robots can modify the way they teach over time, customizing their style to their student. Even better, they store up all sorts of data that helps developers, scientists and researchers learn about autism and technology.

Nao from SoftBank engages with a group of students using advanced voice commands and engagements based on today’s latest therapy techniques. Milo from RoboKind and Robots4Autism, pictured above, “speaks” at a pace that helps people learn and can even appear angry, sad or happy.

There’s still a long way left to go before Milo and Nao can start to help us. Much of the technology is still being tested, which promises to teach us so much more down the line but also prices robots out of most peoples’ budget. Nao, for example, costs $9,000 and even the less-elaborate Leka costs $1,000 just to participate in the study.

For the time being, it seems like we’ll continue to rely on traditional techniques, like.

But, if you’re still holding out for your own robot-teacher, let us know in the comments below.

 

 

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