Friday, March 28, 2008

Kerstin Dautenhahn - Therapy Robots for Autism

Talking Robots: Kerstin Dautenhahn - Therapy Robots for Autism In this episode we interview Kerstin Dautenhahn who is Research Professor in the School of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences at University of Hertfordshire in the UK, where she is a coordinator of the Adaptive Systems Research Group.

Autism is a developmental disorder affecting around 91 people in every 10,000, mainly causing difficulties in social interactions, communication and imagination. Using therapy robots in the AuRoRA project, Dautenhahn has been pushing autistic children to learn essential social skills such as turn taking, joint attention and imitation. Armed with a lot of patience and zeal, her team has been adapting their robots and therapy sessions to each individual child, whether it's about playing with Takashi Gomi's wheeled robots, imitating Aude Billard's Robota doll or drumming with Dautenhahn's toddler-sized Kaspar humanoid.

Kasper Humanoid

While simplifying the desired human-human interactions to a more predictable human-robot interaction seems to encourage the development of social behaviors, one can wonder how this translates up to the child's interactions with humans. To investigate this, the Interactive RObotic social MEdiators as Companions (IROMEC) project has been looking at how autistic children can learn to cooperate and interact with each other through the introduction of a robotic mediator.

Kerstin Dautenhahn is also active in several other areas of Human Robot Interactions with the Cognitive Robot Companion (Cogniron) project or the ROBotic Open-architecture Technology for Cognition, Understanding and Behavior (Robot-Cub) project.



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