“This is nice, it tickles me,” Kaspar the social robot tells four-year-old Finn as they play together at an autism school north of London.
Kaspar, developed by the University of Hertfordshire, also sings song, imitates eating, plays the tambourine and combs his hair during their sessions aimed at helping Finn with his social interaction and communication.
If Finn gets too rough, the similarly sized Kaspar cries: “Ouch, that hurt me.” A therapist is on hand to encourage the child to rectify his behavior by tickling the robot’s feet.
Finn is one of around 170 autistic children that Kaspar has helped in a handful of schools and hospitals over the last 10 years.
But with approximately 700,000 people in Britain on the autism spectrum, according to the National Autistic Society who will mark World Autism Day on Sunday, the university want Kaspar to help more people. TRACKS, an independent charity and specialist early years center for children with autism in Stevenage, have seen positive results from working with Kaspar, who sports a blue cap and plaid shirt for play sessions.
“We were trying to teach a little boy how to eat with his peers. He usually struggled with it because of his anxiety issues,” said deputy principal Alice Lynch.
more at: reuters.com