Encouraging basic social interaction of children with autism skills using robots

Aude Billard, a researcher at our school, worked with others on a neat project that aims at encouraging basic social interaction of children with autism skills using a humanoid robot. One of the experiment she ran is well described in this paper.

our current approach of repeated trails over a long period of time allowed the children time to explore the interaction space of robot-human, as well as human-human interaction. In some cases the children started to use the robot as a mediator, an object of shared attention, for their interaction with their teachers. Furthermore, once they have got accustomed to the robot, in their own time and on their own initiative, they all opened themselves up to include the investigator in their world, interacting with him, and actively seeking to share their experience with him as well as with their carer. We believe that this is an important aspect of the work, since this human contact gives significance and (emotional, intersubjective) meaning to the experiences with the robot.

This work is part of a project called Aurora, which investigates the possible use of robots in therapy and education of children with autism (Aurora 2003), based on findings that people with autism enjoy interacting with computers.

Why do I blog this? designing technology for special needs like this is definitely intriguing and the results they get are interesting both from the interaction designer point of view and the psychologist perspective. In addition, I believe that such interdisciplinary projects are worthwile.