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World Autism Awareness Day Relating to a Robot
02 April 2013

Relating to a Robot

People with autism spectrum disorders can struggle with the kind of social interactions most of us will be taking for granted today – World Autism Awareness Day. For example, they might have difficulty relating to people and interpreting the meanings of social situations. But KASPAR, a humanoid robot (pictured) developed by scientists at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, can help. His verbal responses and minimal facial expressions and gestures – controlled by tiny motors in the face, neck and arms – are purposefully designed to be simple and predictable. This makes KASPAR approachable and non-threatening for autistic children, who tend to be wary of people. KASPAR can not only help autistic children to understand facial expressions and the consequences of their actions – for example, that tickling is funny, but that hitting hurts – but also encourages them to interact and cooperate with real people.

Written by Ruth Williams

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