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Goal to build more than 30 more KASPARs to help children with autism

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(Oct. 11, 2011) — Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire have a goal to build over 30 more KASPAR robots to help children with autism.

They will elaborate on this mission in Shaping the Future, a research publication which will be available next week.

Professor Dautenhahn and her team first designed KASPAR (short for Kinesics and Synchronisation in Personal Assistant Robotics) in 2005, as part of a study for the European Union (EU) Robotcub project. Realising the robot's potential as a therapeutic tool for children with autism, the team developed the prototype further.

KASPAR has a high degree of flexibility in terms of movements and programming options. It is capable of producing arm gestures and speech, and of playing drumming and computer games by means of a wii remote control. The robot's face, which has robotic skin with sensors, can show expressions, and has eyelids that can blink.

So far, KASPAR has been trialled with 50 children across the autistic spectrum. As a social mediator, the robot has produced remarkable results for some children.

"Parents and teachers are amazed at the transformation in children's behaviour -- some seeing the children make eye contact, seek to share experiences or mimic actions for the first time when playing with KASPAR. These small steps are big breakthroughs for the children, and their families and teachers," explains Professor Dautenhahn.

So what next for KASPAR?

"Field results are over and above what we expected. We are hugely encouraged by this progress and by the interest from autism experts, as well as teachers and parents. The fact that KASPAR is one of the three key platforms in the EU Roboskin project, suggests a bright future for KASPAR in this and other application areas. As intellectual property holders of this technology, we're now looking to extend the project's scope in the hope of moving it closer to commercialisation, which is a necessary step towards making the robot widely available. Our next goal is to build many more KASPARs, ideally over 30, and to undertake a five-year, larger-scale evaluation study, working with around 200 children," explains Professor Dautenhahn.

A video of KASPAR in action can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdF7TwhUgLY

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The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by JournalOfSciences.com staff) from materials provided by University of Hertfordshire, via AlphaGalileo.

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

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