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Using a robot to teach human social skills

July 9, 2007

By Emmet Cole

Children with autism are often described as robotic: They are emotionless. They engage in obsessive, repetitive behavior and have trouble communicating and socializing.

Now, a humanoid robot designed to teach autistic children social skills has begun testing in British schools.

Known as KASPAR (Kinesics and Synchronisation in Personal Assistant Robotics), the $4.33 million bot smiles, simulates surprise and sadness, gesticulates and, the researchers hope, will encourage social interaction amongst autistic children.

Relying on a robot to teach human social skills might seem counterintuitive, but autism presents a special case, said Dr. Cathy Pratt, director of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism at Indiana University.

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