Robots to Help Children with Autism?

robot_mainMedical Robots and Technological Therapy

A professor of computer science at the University of Southern California is working with robots to help autistic children, as well as stroke and Alzheimer’s patients. Born in Belgrade, Maja Matarić is working on ways for robots to engage these patients directly, in both physical and cognitive rehabilitation.

“We wanted to do something entirely different,” Matarić told me. She assembled a team of experts in several disciplines: psychology, mechanical engineering, kinesiology, rehabilitation medicine, and neurology.

Matarić’s work is especially important for children with autism because it addresses a much higher level of complexity, namely cognition or understanding.

“The challenge is to have cognitive models built into the robots, so the robot understands how to motivate people,” says one of Mataric’s colleagues. “In my work, we just have to move patients in the right way. What we are doing is still quite hard, but what Matarić is trying to do is much harder.”

Some important things to consider when creating robots for children, or anyone for that matter, is tone of voice, language, body language, and temperament.

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