NAO Robot to Help Autistic Children

We know that the Nao robot is the latest innovation in the field of human-robotic relations. It is a small robot capable of interacting and understating us on an emotional level. Fronted by Lola Canamero, a computer scientist at the University of Hertfordshire, the project is designed to help us get more used to seeing robots in our everyday lives.

The “emotional bond” that we can establish with the knee-high Nao is made possible by his profile-recognition system. By using cameras that can sense and understand changes to the human face, and remember past interactions with specific individuals, Nao knows who he is talking to, and in what mood that person is. Accordingly, the little robot can use simple facial and body gestures to react to our emotions, and can show happiness, worry, excitement, and even anger and fear.

Creating even the simplest of robots that can get angry at us doesn’t sound like the best idea, but then again it wouldn’t be correct to say it can mimic human emotions if we leave out the negative traits. Nao learns to understand us better encounter after encounter, and possesses the development skills of a growing 1 year-old child. In fact, it is modeled after the behavioral and cognitive patterns of human and chimpanzee babies.

Nao is certainly an impressive robot, but it is it’s simplicity and straight-forwardness that allows it to help autistic kids. These children often have learning problems and have a hard time expressing and reflecting emotions, which is Nao’s area of expertise. Curiously enough, the kids have shown to be more comfortable with the robot than with other people, because they have more control in the situation. The goal will be to stimulate their emotional responses and improve their interactions with other people.


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