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
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.