Helpism, a robot to help children

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A recent study published in a scientific journal Autism Research he emphasized therapeutic efficacy of robots humanoids in the rehabilitation of children with autistic disorder. The research was conducted by the Italian Social Cognition Laboratory in guided human-robot interaction Agnieszka Wykowska on Italian Institute of Technology (Iit), in collaboration with the psychologists of the Boggiano Pico Center of the opera Don Orione in Genoa. A few years ago, the technology center developed a humanoid robot called iCub, which is 104 centimeters tall and weighs 22 kilograms, which simulates the features of a child around the age of three and has extremely realistic facial expressions. Today, the robot finally proved its effectiveness in clinical context.

ErgoCub - A humanoid robotic robot

All robots of the Italian Institute of Technology

During sessions, the iCub supports therapists in classic clinical activities and interacts based on each child’s unique skills. Specifically during training the robot manipulates the foam cube with a different image on each face, while the child is encouraged to put himself in the shoes of the iCub and identify the image observed by the robot, thus training the ability to identify with another’s point of view.

Autism spectrum disorder, characterized by deficits in communication and social interactions, represents a diverse set of neurodevelopmental disorders that appear during developmental age. People on the autism spectrum are often present difficulty with empathy and understanding other people’s points of viewkey skills for development Social skills. iCub robotic therapy specifically focuses on improving these basic skills. Preliminary results of the experiment show a improving social skills in children involved in therapy courses who also use the robot.

The research team identified the tendencies of children with autism to communicate with humanoid robots. Forming relationships with another human being can be really challenging for those with this type of diagnosis, as it could lead to an abundance of stimuli that are difficult to interpret. In this context, iCub solves the problem by making it possible to break down complex human behavior into more manageable parts. “Children with autism feel overwhelmed by unpredictable or variable behavior. Fixed something, a lot predictable and repetitive like a robot, they make them feel a little more comfortable“, explains Wired Agnieszka Wykowska, project coordinator.

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