University of Hertfordshire robot to help autistic children

BOFFINS at the University of Hertfordshire have started work upgrading a robot designed to help children with autism learn about social interaction. Kaspar, a child-sized humanaoid robot, is being developed at the Hatfield uni to encourage social

BOFFINS at the University of Hertfordshire have started work upgrading a robot designed to help children with autism learn about social interaction.

Kaspar, a child-sized humanaoid robot, is being developed at the Hatfield uni to encourage social interaction skills in children with the brain development disorder.

The machine will have an artificial skin, called Roboskin, created by Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn and her team at the university's school of computer science.

Work will also be done by the Adaptive Systems research group at the university to create embedded tactile sensors, which can provide feedback from areas of the robot's body.


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The robot will respond to the different ways children play with it in order to help youngsters develop 'socially appropriate' playful interaction.

Prof Dautenhahn said: "Children with autism have problems with touch, often with either touching or being touched.

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"The idea is to put skin on the robot as touch is a very important part of social development and communication and the tactile sensors will allow the robot to detect different types of touch and it can then encourage or discourage different approaches."

Ann Griffin of Harc - the Hertfordshire branch of the National Autistic Society based in Link Drive, Hatfield - told the WHT she thought it was a "great idea".

"Anything that helps our understanding of children with autism has to be beneficial," said Ann, who has two autistic sons.

"It is something that not only helps us understand people with autism, but also helps autistic people learn where they can touch people; anybody with autism can get in an awful lot of trouble due to not knowing where to touch someone, or how hard to."

The Roboskin project is being undertaken by a consortium of European universities.

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