In a university laboratory in Washington, Darwin-OP2, a robot that looks like a human, ferociously kicks a green ball on the floor. “I want to be friends and play football,” he says in a cold, monotone voice.
Darwin-OP2 is not a toy. It is one of the most advanced examples of research and development in what is labeled as assisted robotics and humanoid interaction. Darwin-OP2 was programmed by a team of biomedical engineering professors at a leading US university. The project aims to help children with autism spectrum disorder to engage more with society. The main goal will be to use a robotic system to help children with autism communicate with others in a much simpler and more comfortable way.
The project, however, is in its early stages and much remains to be done. It focuses on how a robot can help children between the ages of 5 and 10, but is likely to include three-year-olds soon. The ultimate goal is to make the technology accessible to countless families in the United States with children suffering from autism spectrum disorder.
Autism, in most cases, varies from child to child. But there are some common traits among all children. For example, most autistic children avoid eye contact. This makes it difficult for these children to interact with their family, friends, playmates, and others.
Scientists associated with the project said their studies revealed that children with autism spectrum disorder are more comfortable interacting with robots because they are able to monitor and control their actions, which makes them more predictable. compared to human playmates.
Children with autism spectrum disorder usually have a hard time understanding and engaging with another person’s emotions. But with a socially assistive robot, a child could be more effectively engaged without being overwhelmed. These robots use artificial intelligence that analyzes a child’s behavior and then uses the collected data to interact with them.
Three different types of robots are currently used for testing. One is a mini robot connected to an iPad. Show facial emotions. The second is an average robot that can perform various gestures and dance movements, responding to social cues.
And then, of course, there is Darwin-OP2, a larger and more sophisticated robot that interacts with children by playing soccer and engaging in other activities. He can dance to the beat of the music and even children with autism can follow the moves and dance together.
Scientists and therapists say that imparting social skills to children with autism requires frequent repetition of actions, which is a perfect task for humanoids and robots. Additionally, robots can help parents of autistic children with applied behavioral analysis therapy. Such therapy requires long hours to be spent with the child, which may not be possible for both working parents. Additionally, robots have artificial intelligence that can collect data to provide useful analytics to parents, helping them understand their child’s behavior.
But these are the first days to test how robots and artificial intelligence can come to the aid of autistic children.
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