Two researchers at the University of Connecticut received a large grant ($404,639 to be exact) to study whether robots can improve the motor skills of children with autism. They are developing a robot that can gradually increase the complexity of motor movements. The researchers hypothesize that the robots are simpler and more predictable therefore easier for children with autism to interact with. The goal is to create the robot to deliver more standardized interventions to assist the clinicians.
In my opinion, there should be a better way to achieve the goal of improving motor skills in children with autism. First and foremost, it is called early intervention and identification of autism. I am a big supporter of people interaction. Just like therapeutic massage works significantly better when delivered by a human versus a massage chair, in my opinion socialization improves with human contact. I understand the theory that the robot is more predictable and perhaps more motivating at first, but at after awhile this would get boring. In addition, aren't many Wii games predictable and motivating? Can't someone develop this as a Wii game for much less money? Is this robot going to jump, hop and skip? Perform fine motor tasks to copy? Currently the robot can shake hands, take a bow and do Tai Chi. I know the grant is to create a much more complex robot, very curious to see the end result.
Is this just one more electronic device to add to children's lives to take away from everyday play?
Reference: Krane, B. Robots Speaks the Language of Kids. Retrieved from the web on 8/9/10 from http://www.physorg.com/news200229593.html