AI can actually help autism victims? 

A company called LuxAI, a spin-off from the Luxemburg University, created a robot they have named QTrobot. Even though artificial intelligence is still a new technology, relatively speaking that is, this company has created this robot to help children who suffer from autism. And apparently they are on the right track.

LuxAI builds interactive social robots using artificial intelligence. Their new robot, QTrobot, teaches skills to kids with autism. QTrobot is being used to improve the level of attention and engagement of kids with autism, as well as decreasing anxiety and disruptive behaviors.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. One in every 68 children has this disorder.

QTrobot is a therapy assistant for children with autism. LuxAI did a study for this project and showed that robot-assisted therapy or robot-mediated intervention is considered promising for children with ASD. Interacting with a robot seemed to be easier for children with ASD than interacting with a person, but also more appealing. Robots work in a controlled manner which decreases the risk of stressful situations, which in turn relaxes the child. Robots are better at constant repetitions, which children with autism need. And robots can appear to look like another child who is attempting to teach and interact with the child with autism, which can stimulate the child’s curiosity, making it easier for the child to learn.

Fifteen children, from ages 4 to 14, who were already diagnosed as having ASD, were tested in the study. The researchers compared the children’s reactions to the robot to their reactions to a real person. What they found was the children looked more often at the real person, but they kept glancing away. But their attention was held longer when they looked at the robot. This meant the children were more comfortable looking at the robot than at the real person. And as for the children’s impulse to imitate, they did that as much with the robot as they did with the person.

The final step in the study was to determine how the children would do with stereotyped behaviors during interventions. Repetitive or stereotyped behaviors these children tend to do can damage the learning ability of a child who has ASD. Therefore, reducing these behaviors can increase learning opportunities. The study showed that the children showed less tendencies toward these behaviors when they were with the robot. So the researchers concluded that using the robot, children with ASD could have the opportunity to learn the skills they need to lead productive and happy lives in their communities.

QTrobot is a humanoid type robot with a liquid-crystal display face and robotic arms. This kind of face and moving arms enable the robot to imitate emotions. In this way, Qtrobot, with its expressive face, can help kids with autism develop their emotion recognition skills. Children can use the accompanying child tablet interface to interact with QTrobot and receive visual feedback.

QTrobot’s graphical interface allows autism professionals to run sessions using the social robot and design their own curriculums. The robot also has pre-programmed educational curriculums which help kids with autism become more independent and social. These programs have been developed from many years of research on autism training. All in all, this innovation is very promising.

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