Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A robot helps children with autism improve their skills

LONDON (Reuters) - A robot is playing with a four-year-old boy at an autism school in northern London and says, "It's beautiful that he has poked me."

Kaspar, developed by the University of Hertfordshire, is singing, pretending to eat, beating the tambourine and combing his hair during sessions aimed at helping the boy named Vinn to socialize and communicate.

If Vinn becomes rude, Caspar cries out, "This hurts me." There is a therapist to encourage the child to correct his behavior and encourage him to fondle the device.

The child Finn is one of about 170 autistic children assisted by Caspar in a range of schools and hospitals over the past 10 years.

But with nearly 700,000 people in the UK suffering from autism, according to the National Autism Society, which will celebrate World Autism Day on Sunday, the University needs Caspar to treat more.

"Our vision is for every child in his or her school, home or hospital to be treated with Kaspar if he so desires," Christine Dottenhan, professor of artificial intelligence at the university, told Reuters.

The achievement of the goal depends on the results of a clinical trial that may contribute to the work of Caspar in all hospitals across the country.

The Trax charity organization in the city of Steffenig has shown positive results from working with Caspar.

"We were trying to train a young boy how to eat with his peers and he was suffering because he was worried," said Alice Lynch, deputy director of the organization.

"We started doing it with Caspar and really enjoyed feeding Caspar and pushing him to eat when he was hungry and things like that." Now he's getting into class and eating with his peers.

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