Leka has launched a social robot, which claims to help children with autism, Down’s syndrome and other disabilities learn new skills by emitting lights, sounds and vibrations to engage them.
The ‘social robot’ provides the sensory stimulation by reacting to the child’s actions, whether that’s by lighting up, vibrating or talking back to the user, providing the support and encouragement a child needs to engage with the device.
The round robot’s actions are based on games to stimulate the child. Using techniques such as points scoring and competition to engage the user, a range of games will be available on Leka at launch, each helping to nurture a different aspect of a child’s development.
Those already announced include hide and seek, bingo, which uses colour to help the child’s matching skills and touch-blink-spin, which reacts to touch.
Both multiplayer and single player games will be included to aid parents and carers teach children, but also allowing the child to explore Leka on their own.
“As a robot, Leka is both predictable and stable in its interactions, which is very important for the child’s sense of safety and serenity,” said chief executive and founder of Leka, Ladislas de Toldi told the BBC.
“Leka caters to the specific needs of the kids and focuses on multi-sensory stimulation. Its colours, sounds, vibrations help improve sensory processing and reduces anxiety. Children with disabilities are still children. They want to play, they want to have fun.”
Before the robot comes to market, Leka is looking to add some additional features, including a screen to display more information including emotions and pictograms and better communication with the child.
Leka is working with researchers in Paris and is basing its development on other research from the UK and US, plus care givers and parents to ensure it’s perfect for the job of educating those with disabilities.
It will cost around €700 (£500) when it’s launched the company is predicting, although it’s trying to reduce the costs to make it more affordable