Researcher Designs Parrot Robot to Help Autistic Kids

Researcher Designs Parrot Robot to Help Autistic KidsResearcher Designs Parrot Robot to Help Autistic Kids

An Iranian researcher at the University of Tehran has developed the first parrot robot to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder through the process of diagnosis and treatment.

“The parrot robot has the ability to distinguish colors, specific geometric shapes, voices, and persons, and is remotely controlled”, said Hadi Moradi, project manager of the Parrot Robot Design Project, Mehr News Agency reported.

ASDs are a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that include social and communication difficulties, stereotyped or repetitive behavior and interests, sensory issues, and in some cases, cognitive delays.

Such disorders have more than tripled over the past decade across the world, occurring more often in boys than girls. While autism appears to be on the rise, it is unclear whether the growing number of diagnoses shows a real increase or comes from improved detection.

In any case, early diagnosis is crucial since early treatment can help a child with autism make significant improvement in language and social skills.

Diagnosis of autism in children is normally done by interviewing parents via a specialist; however, given the different types of behavior displayed by autistic children and normal children in reaction to the parrot robot, autism could be easily diagnosed, Moradi noted.

“It has been examined for its ability to diagnose the condition accurately,” he stressed.

The robot is undergoing tests to advance its ability to teach autistic children to figure out turn-taking. The diverse social skills associated with taking turns can be very difficult for children with ASD to master.

Turn-taking is a foundation for speech and language development. Language is a back-and-forth exchange system: one person talks while the other listens, and vice versa. The ability to understand and demonstrate turn-taking is a critical step in building speech and language skills in children.

Moradi expect to see results within two months.

The design of the robot is unique even on an international scale; it was developed in close collaboration with and support of the Cognitive Science and Technology Council of the Vice-Presidency for Science and Technology.

 Other Applications

The parrot robot would have other applications such as entertainment and language learning.

Currently, other robots such as ‘Nao,’ exist globally to help diagnose and treat children with ASD. Such models cost thousands of dollars, whereas the domestic parrot robot costs $1,700, and is awaiting mass production permit.

Nao, a two-foot tall humanoid robot, was developed by an interdisciplinary team of mechanical engineers and autism experts at the US Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, in 2013 to be used to demonstrate that robotic systems may be powerful tools for enhancing the basic social learning skills of children with ASD. Researchers reported that children with ASD paid more attention to the robot and followed its instructions almost as well as they did a human therapist in standard exercises used to develop joint attention skills.