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Helping Children With Autism Using Robots: Meet QTrobot

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LuxAI, a University of Luxembourg spin-off has designed a robot named QTrobot that could aid in the development of autistic children

The robot can help both parents and therapists with autistic children who feel uncomfortable with human contact. The QTrobot is equipped with robotic arms and an LCD face.

The findings of the study about the robot will be presented during this year's RO-MAN conference, a symposium that focuses on human and robot interactive communication at the end of August.

The "cutie" robot only stands around 2 feet tall. It can see, hear, talk, and most importantly, communicate non-verbally by showing facial expressions on its screen and gestures with its body.

About The Research

The LuxAI researchers conducted their study with 15 ASD-diagnosed children whose ages range from 4 to 14 years old. The children engaged in an interview twice, one with a human and the other with a robot. Each interview lasted less than five minutes.

During the interview, the robot or human interviewer asked the child their name and three other questions about themselves. Subsequently, they proceeded to tell a story and asked the child if they think it is nice. To end the session, the interviewer asked the child to follow them as they make four gestures such as lifting their right arm.

"When you are interacting with a person, there are a lot of social cues such as facial expressions, tonality of the voice, and movement of the body which are overwhelming and distracting for children with autism," said Aida Nazarikhorram, its co-founder.

"Immediately the child starts interacting with the educator or therapist to ask questions about the robot or give feedback about its behavior."

The adorable robot decreases the anxiety of the autistic children. According to the researchers, many behaviors such as hand flapping decrease by integrating the robot into the child's development. Apart from that, people from the robotics startup have found out that the robot can help children to learn important social skills.

Helpful Technology

Furthermore, it presents itself as a better option than using a tablet or an app because the robot itself looks like another person. Researchers have also found out that it is better in improving the child's learning compared to a usual iPad and educational app pairing.

The robot is also easy to program. It has a full processor and can function for hours. Additionally, it has a 3D camera.

Surprisingly, the robot does not steal the spotlight during therapy. Instead, it aids the therapist to connect with the child.

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