Artificial intelligence can help robots interact with autistic children

Artificial intelligence can help robots interact with autistic children
Highlights

Scientists have developed an artificial intelligence system that can allow robots to interact with autistic children undergoing therapy People with autism see, hear and feel the world differently from other people, which affects how they interact with others This makes communicationcentred activities quite challenging for children with autism spectrum conditions ASCs

Boston : Scientists have developed an artificial intelligence system that can allow robots to interact with autistic children undergoing therapy. People with autism see, hear and feel the world differently from other people, which affects how they interact with others. This makes communication-centred activities quite challenging for children with autism spectrum conditions (ASCs).

To address this challenge, therapists recently began to use humanoid robots in therapy sessions. However, existing robots lack the ability to autonomously engage with children, which is vital for improving the therapy. The fact that people with ASCs have atypical and diverse styles of expressing their thoughts and feelings makes the use of such robots even more challenging. Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US created a personalised machine learning framework for robots used during autism therapy.

The framework, described in the journal Science Robotics, helps robots automatically perceive the affect -- facial, vocal and gestural behaviour -- and engagement of children as they interact with them. To achieve this exciting advance, project partners had realised that in the case of children with ASCs, one size does not fit all. As a result, they personalised their framework to each child using demographic data, behavioural assessment scores and other characteristics unique to that child. The novel framework enabled the robots to automatically adapt their interpretations of children's responses by taking into account cultural and individual differences between them.

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