Therapeutic Social Robot: Providing Autism Therapy Through A Teddy Bear Robot
Early behavioural therapy helps to improve learning, communication and social skills for young children with autism. This occurs best when the affected child receives a certain amount of therapeutic activities from a trained therapist, with progress being regularly recorded and evaluated. Unfortunately, some therapy sessions may not proceed smoothly, for example when the autistic child is not comfortable in therapist’s presence or when interaction time is limited.
A team from the NUS Interactive & Digital Media Institute has developed a teddy bear robot, to help therapists interact better with autistic children, without physically being present in the same room.
The construction of this robot is made up of six servo motors, which allows the therapist to control the movement of the teddy bear robot’s head, neck, elbows, shoulders and calves. This can be done via a Kinect sensor, which enables the robot’s movement to replicate the therapists’ movement.
A Graphical User Interface displays live video and audio of the child as he/ she plays and interacts with the teddy bear robot. This allows the therapist to view the therapy session, even when not in the same room as the child. The interface also allows the therapist to speak to the child, through the teddy bear robot.
Applications and Advantages
This robotic device can help to improve both the quality and quantity of interaction time that an autistic child has with a trained therapist. It can potentially play a significant role in improving a child’s well-being, benefiting the individual, his/ her caregivers and society at large.
NUS is looking for research or commercialisation partners to help bring this robot to market.
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