Your gifts are further improving how Nao the robot can support children with autism.
Nao the humanoid robot has become even better at helping children with autism, thanks to a collaborative student project funded by alumni.
University researchers had been taking Nao into Topcliffe Primary School in Castle Vale, Birmingham with positive results but, while Nao was able to show actions for the children to imitate, it was harder for the robot to recognise what the children were doing.
Using alumni funding, students from the Schools of Education and Computer Science developed a game that used artificial intelligence to help Nao recognise emotions.
‘Understanding communication as a two-way process is a key area for children with autism, so for Nao to be able to respond like this is important,’ says Dr Karen Guldberg, Director of the Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER). ‘The tasks within the game were designed to help children recognise emotions by focusing on body language.’
As well as enhancing the robot’s capabilities, the project also benefited the students. ‘It was incredible seeing the children trying to comfort the robot when it cried, or talking into its ears,’ says Tristan Bell (second year, BSc Computer Science).
‘The project showed the value of an interdisciplinary team, and made clear how different children with autism can be when working with robots. It was a fantastic experience.’
So how might the project change how Nao works in the future? Dr Nick Hawes, Lecturer in Intelligent Robotics, explains: ‘In writing the software, the students focused on trying to enrich interactions but the project showed that actually the interaction needs to be simpler. For example, we thought the robot’s responses were slow, whereas we know now this is perfectly suited to children with autism who need a lot of processing time.’
Dr Guldberg adds: ‘Nao is making a real difference to the lives of these children. The transformation in them when they see Nao is incredible; they absolutely adore it. I would like to thank everyone whose gifts made this happen, because the project would not have been possible without your support.’
To support children with autism visit www.birmingham.ac.uk/alumni/giving/Autism.aspx.
Find out more in our short film below:
Did you know?
A 58cm tall humanoid robot made by French company Aldebaran Robotics; Nao can dance, drive a (small) car and has even circumnavigated the globe for charity.