Helping Kids Learn to Learn

True, Kaspar the robot may not be the cutest humanoid out there, but holy smokes, “he” is definitely proving to be one of the most useful.

Developed in the United Kingdom at the University of Hertfordshire, this Kinesics and Synchronisation in Personal Assistant Robot (Kaspar for short) was designed to help autistic children learn to learn.

The goal of Kaspar is to study the possibility of using robotic systems as therapeutic and educational tools for children living with autism.

Simple is best

The researchers behind Kaspar kept its appearance minimal for good reason. The simple facial features are designed to not overwhelm nor threaten its playmate, an autistic child.

Because many autistic children often have difficulties in learning “appropriate” social cues, they are encouraged to freely interact with Kaspar by touching him and mirroring his actions.

Alongside every Kaspar-child interaction, a researcher or therapist controls the robot’s reactions with a remote. This way the children can learn about expressions such as ‘happy’ and ‘surprised” at a rhythm that is best fitted for their needs.

Safe is better

After 10 years of research and development, the real beauty in Kaspar has proven to be its ability to provide autistic children with a safe environment to grow.

One great story — out of over 170 individual cases — has been Kaspar’s ability to help one boy overcome the fear of eating with his classmates. It might not seem like that much, but for social workers specialized in autism, small changes make have a huge impact.

Anything that can help decrease the isolation of an autistic child is beautiful — even if it a creepy-ish looking child-sized humanoid. Go future!

The Twittersphere said it best

In reading up on the subject of autism this past Sunday (April 2), we found this beautiful quote that came up a few times for #WorldAutismAwarenessDay:

If they can’t learn the way we teach, we teach the way they learn.

Love it 👌

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