A school in London is testing out robots that could give children with autism the tools they need to communicate with each other, parents and staff.
The Zeno robot makes facial expressions to show emotions and then children are encouraged to copy them, educating them about how a facial expression relates to an emotion.
Developed in partnership with the Centre for Research in Autism and Education at University College London, Zeno is built upon the premise that autistic children tend to trust robots more than humans because they are always consistent and pre-programmed.
They won’t do anything out of the ordinary and will show the same expressions every time for emotions, making them easier to understand.
“Robots in therapeutic settings might be particular beneficial for autistic children because they potentially make them more comfortable in these settings,” Prof Elizabeth Pellicano from the Centre for Research in Autism and Education at University College London told ITV.
“And if we get children who are more comfortable and less anxious they might be more ready to learn.”
The Centre for Research in Autism and Education at University College London will collect the data from the experiments with Zeno and if it’s successful, the centre will carry out medical trials with the help of Zeno’s friendly face.
“No two days are the same with autism,” Queensmill headmaster Freddie Adu said. “Where there are often children who don’t communicate and they see all people as the same, sometimes with a robot we have seen some startling things where suddenly asking questions or responding to a stimulus they know is not another human being but it draws them out of their normal way of communicating and the results have been quite fascinating.”