Recognising and expressing affect is a vital part of social participation. Unfortunately, those with autism have a learning disability in this area, often accompanied by deficits in language, motor and perceptual development. Their development of social communication is very low compared to neurologically typical children who learn social cues naturally while growing up. In trying to comprehend social nuances in communication or social behaviour to blend in during everyday interaction, autistic children get frustrated, not only with themselves but with their teachers too, and often give up learning. What may help an autistic child in this case is an ever-patient teacher. This research presents an approach to creating that teacher: a persistent and unresentful aid that progressively introduces basic emotional expressions, guides recognition development through matching, and records the child's success. It is designed to teach emotion recognition to autistic children with a heterogeneous disorder. Although the application developed for this research does not come close to the abilities of a highly trained human practitioner, it is designed to offload some of the more tedious parts of the work.
Affective Tigger is a toy that responds to the playmate in a natural, emotive manner; recognizes and reacts to the emotion the child is exhibiting; provides the child with a safe play space to explore and experiment with feelings and behavior.
Robots have the potential to make a contribution in the area of autism. They are able to produce consistent, repeatable and reliable behaviours. This produces a stable environment for the user and builds a level of trust in the interactions present.
This article addresses design issues that are relevant in the AURORA project which aims at developing an autonomous, mobile robot as a therapeutic tool for children with autism.
The Aurora project has been investigating the use of a robotic platform as a tool for therapy use with children with autism. A key issue in this project is the evaluation of the interactions, which are not constricted and involve the child moving freely.
By using Robota, a humanoid robot that can engage children in synchronous and imitative interaction games, we hope to develop interaction skills in children with autism, skills that might help them to cope better with daily-life human-human interaction.
Not only will robotics come to rely upon human development for inspiration and practical theories, but also will human development profit from the evaluation and experimentation opportunities that robotics offers.
Just as a child learns social skills and conventions through interactions with its parents, our robot will learn to interact with people using natural social communication.
We examine a case study of an ongoing project to implement an existing model of one aspect human social development, the development of joint attention behaviors.
Using ten mobile robots, each with distinct characteristics and capabilities, we observed that such devices are able to create interesting and meaningful interactions with these children.
Social robots as mediators for people with autism need not necessarily mimic human appearance. Being easily identifiable as a machine can in this context, where we cannot rely on anthropomorphism, be an advantage.
If we are to build human-like robots that can interact naturally with people, our robots must know not only about the properties of objects but also the properties of animate agents in the world.