September 30, 2016
Robots have taken over the tech industry. From devices that clean your house to programs that plan your day, there is a robot for everything nowadays. And while you might think they’re primarily made to make your life easier, they can also address the pressing need for child care. Particularly for little ones suffering from autism or diabetes.
Scientific research has shown that diabetic children can be assisted by social robots to be more confident in their everyday life. The social interaction with no consequences can develop skills that would otherwise go unlearned by children suffering from autism.
NAO – The Humanoid Robot Helping Kids Learn
In the last four years, a new robotic friend has been introduced to European children aged 7 to 11 years. NAO is a humanoid robot used in research and education worldwide. The NAO humanoid robot is the ideal platform for teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts at all levels.
The 60 centimeters tall robot has the ability to recognize speech and can assist young children in keeping track of their insulin injections, blood sugar levels and food intake. It has quizzes and games that give kids a detailed understanding of diabetes, so they can be more informed about their condition.
“You could see a tangible social connection, and a response to the robot’s ‘personality’,” said Tony Belpaeme, Professor in Cognitive Systems and Robotics, and academic lead for ALIZE. “We found that in this environment, the child was much more receptive to information, far more so than when it was presented in other formats. It was a brilliant insight for us.”
Most children suffering from diabetes tend to have problems with their confidence. The robot can restore this by personalizing the responses to the children whom it has interacted with in the past. This kind of personal interaction will provide education as well as support.
One important factor is that the robots need to be personal in their actions. Children are bound to be responsive if they are treated as an individual. If the robot makes a mistake, there is a fresh lesson for the children. The young stars learn that they too are allowed to make mistakes and need not be perfect.
Autistic Children and Robots
One of the other important finding of the research is that robots can also be used as classroom assistants. In this case, pupils who tend to lag behind their peers get invaluable help. The research team is now trying to find ways in which the robots can be put to more use. Such as children within the autistic spectrum.
A lead researcher, Belpaeme, said that the work they have done so far indicates robots have positive impact on children with autism. Some of the areas it assists are in communication and relationship building. This is good news for parents because it means the robots can be used as therapeutic tools if taught on how to interact socially with human beings.
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