“This robot, programmed to teach kids about a wide range of social interactions, is proving more successful than humans in helping children with autism, by a long shot.”
I recently had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Pam Rollins, an associate professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at UT Dallas. Rollins played a pivotal role in the development of Milo, working with a team of autism experts and robotics designers to create Robots4Autism. Milo is an artificially intelligent robot with a full range of facial expressions to interact with children who have ASD.
Dr. Rollins has been studying and researching autism since 1982, and bought her expertise to the team at Robots4Autism as they worked to develop Milo. Children with autism often struggle with the development of social skills. There are many potential benefits of using an engaging, child-like robot to interact with young students on the spectrum:
- The robot is generally perceived as a friendly, non-threatening entity, helping children overcome the fears or discomfort they often exhibit when attempting to interact with human therapists.
- The same lessons and concepts can readily be repeated and reinforced (Milo doesn’t become fatigued).
- The systematizing of emotions: Milo has the same expression on his face every time he displays a given emotion, making it easier for kids to learn to associate the visual experience to the emotion.
- Milo isn’t judgmental and doesn’t display conflicting emotions or frustrations that can be confusing to children with autism.
- The ability to flash visual symbols on the display on its chest, builds on the visual strengths of children with ASD and aides their understanding of difficult concepts.
- Milo speaks more slowly than most people, which aids in comprehension.
These are just some of the reasons Milo and the technology behind this adorable robot are making a big difference for kids on the spectrum. As stated in this video (below) from a piece CNN did on Milo, “This robot, programmed to teach kids about a wide range of social interactions, is proving more successful than humans in helping children with autism, by a long shot.”
Efficacy & Need
In one test, children were engaged with Milo an average of about 87% of the time, versus a level of just 3% engagement with the human co-therapists. That is a startling difference in effectiveness!
With around 1 out of 68 children born in the U.S. having some form of autism (according to the CDC), the potential for this exciting technology to help them is enormous.
To learn more about Milo and the work that RoboKind and Dr. Rollins are doing, check out their site at Robots4Autism.com. Those wishing to further explore the work on Dr. Rollins may wish to explore her book, Facilitating Early Social Communication Skills: From Theory to Practice.
*Thanks to DallasNews.com for permission to share this photo!