Hatfield robot in NHS child autism trial

The University of Hertfordshire robot, Kaspar, can teach autistic children through interactive play.

The University of Hertfordshire robot, Kaspar, can teach autistic children through interactive play. - Credit: Archant

A robot developed by Hatfield’s University of Hertfordshire to help children with autism is being trialled for use in the NHS for the first time.

The child-like robot, known as Kaspar, has been used by about 170 children since it was invented, but now the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust has received national funding for a two-year study involving 40 of its patients.

Kaspar is able to play various interactive games with autistic children, as it is sensitive to touch.

Dr Karen Irvine, trial coordinator, said: “Research has explored the use of socially assisted Robots (SARs), such as Kaspar, in supporting the social and emotional development of children with autism.

“We want to take that even further and this clinical trial with the NHS will help us do that. In previous studies with Kaspar there have been promising results that show it improves the development of communication and social skills in children with autism, particularly those of a young age. We want to build on that success in a clinical environment.


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“The overall key aim of this study, and all the work with Kaspar, is to help children with autism explore basic human communication and emotions as well as learn about socially acceptable physical interaction.

“Children with autism can sometimes find this kind of interaction difficult, so Kaspar helps bridge the gap with other children, teachers, family members and therapists.”

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Jill Callander of the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust said: “We are delighted to be the first NHS trust working with the University of Hertfordshire on this project. We hope the Kaspar trial will bring real benefits to the children we care for.”

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