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Robots Teach Autistic Kids Social Skills

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the bender-not-a-great-model dept.

Robotics 171

posys writes "Wired Magazine has an article showing how the eternal patience of robots lends itself well to teaching new social skills to autistic children. 'The researchers hope that the end result is a human-like robot that can act as a "social mediator" for autistic children, a steppingstone to improved social interaction with other children and adults. "KASPAR provides autistic children with reliability and predictability. Since there are no surprises, they feel safe and secure," Robins said, adding that the purpose is not to replace human interaction and contact but to enhance it. Robins has already tested some imitation and turn-taking games with the children and his preliminary findings are positive.'"

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171 comments

Ummm (5, Insightful)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804457)

Am I the only one who finds the idea of robots teaching autistic children to be social slightly ironic?

Re:Ummm (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804529)

It just means we'll have a bunch of slightly-more-social-than-usual autistic kids who speak with a robotic voice.

Re:Ummm (5, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804911)

It just means we'll have a bunch of slightly-more-social-than-usual autistic kids who speak with a robotic voice.
Who offer to let you bite their shiny metal ass.

Autism = stupidity (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19805081)

Let's call a spade a spade, people.

Re:Ummm (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804717)

> Am I the only one who finds the idea of robots teaching autistic children to be social slightly ironic?

Definitely. Definitely slightly ironic.

Happy someone is finally teaching Austrailians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19804759)

With some encouragement they can learn to be productive members of society.

Re:Ummm (4, Insightful)

the dark hero (971268) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804813)

Ironic: Yes. Useful: Extreme Potential

Have you ever had to care for an autistic child? I was asked to watch over one for maybe half an hour to forty-five minutes. I wasn't prepared for what was to happen next, but i learned a lot. In fact, the kid taught me more than i could even try to teach him. The boy was about 9 years old, but had the mental capacity of a 5 year old. Sadly, that's probably never going to change. One thing to remember is that some autistic children don't speak. They do things largely based on habit. Kinda sounds less ironic if you have something to relate to in order to assist social interaction with other humans.

It's hard to judge mental capacity in the autistic (5, Insightful)

benhocking (724439) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804879)

I've known several autistic children, and you might be surprised at what some of them know. Now, granted, there are often other developmental disorders that accompany autism, but what you interpret as reduced mental capacity might be reduced motivation. I knew one kid that had almost no verbal skills and was thought to be very unaware of his surroundings, but when the right motivators were found it was revealed that he knew the names of everyone around him and much more. (Of course, he's still most likely developmentally delayed.)

That said, I agree that the robot could be extremely helpful. For many children with autism it might turn out to be the right motivator.

Re:It's hard to judge mental capacity in the autis (1)

the dark hero (971268) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805291)

They are most definitely aware of what's going on. IIRC, autism occurs when the brain develops prematurely kinda leaving no room to grow. Some social/verbal functions may be capped, but the autistic person is still able to learn and grasp new ideas. From what i understood they interpret information differently or can't interpret it at all. I have much to learn obviously, but hopefully the robots can help us communicate to an autistic person.

Autism spectrum (4, Interesting)

benhocking (724439) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805589)

I believe current theory is that most people with autism have interconnection problems, actually. I.e., the various regions of the brain are not communicating well with each other. However, the label "autism" is often about as specific as the label "cancer". That is, I'm quite certain there are several different development disorders that have been lumped under the same label. If you go to a school for children with autism (my wife works in one), you'll notice that these children are more different from each other than the "typical" child with autism is different from a "typical" child without autism. The only things they all have in common are the conditions that were necessary for them to be labelled as having autism in the first place. Some of them have severe mental deficiencies. Others are capable of earning a Ph.D. [templegrandin.com] Most of them, however, at least appear to have lower mental functioning than the typically developing child. (By "appear", I mean by an impartial observer using the tools they have available to them. Unfortunately, the impartial observer cannot always understand the way to communicate to a particular child with autism or the way to interpret such a child's actions. OTOH, a "partial" observer is subject to the typical problems associated with being partial - including a desire to believe that a child has more potential than he or she might actually have.)

Re:It's hard to judge mental capacity in the autis (4, Insightful)

Analogy Man (601298) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805489)

There was a very interesting piece on NPR a few months back about a convention for autistics. It may seem strange that they would hold such a convention, but it provided a forum for many incredible people to meet where someone wanting to wander off into a corner to be alone would be understood by others in attendance.

One speaker made a very compelling argument that this "disorder" should in many instances be considered just a different mode of operation rather than a disease. One benefit of the way his brain works is that he can concentrate at a high level on the same stream of thought for hours...something that is very rare in "normally" wired people. One persons compulsive disorder is anothers passion, persistence and dedication.

Sure of someone unable to engage the world around them is going to be an absolute nightmare to raise and this research may be a means of greatly enriching these people's lives. A "cure for autism" might not be welcomed by all those afflicted however?

It's a very valid point (3, Insightful)

benhocking (724439) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805609)

OTOH, it should be noted that, more than likely, most people with autism at this convention were at the higher-functioning end of autism. For them, the autistic tendencies can confer real benefits. Most of those with autism are not necessarily so lucky.

Tutoring (2, Insightful)

Das Auge (597142) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805557)

In high school, I spend one period per for a semester tuturing autistic students. Most of them feel into one of two categories. They were almost either almost "normal" or barely functioning. it took a careful, thoughtful, hand to teach them. I can't see how a robot (with today's technology) can possibly do even come close to that.

I guess you could get a person to monitor the robotic tutoring, but you'd end up with a human watching a robot teach a human. Which would be a waste.

I don't care if the child is autistic or not, I'm not pleased with the thought of robots teaching children. Not only are you robbing them of learning social mores, but you're also telling them that they aren't important enough to be taught be a human. Just one more mechanical babysitter (along with computers and television) in their lives.

One-on-one instruction (2, Insightful)

benhocking (724439) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805663)

I guess you could get a person to monitor the robotic tutoring, but you'd end up with a human watching a robot teach a human. Which would be a waste.

Or, you could have a human watching ten robots teach ten humans. Each of those humans get semi-individualized instruction with the benefit of a human instructor if one is needed. In my wife's school, most of the children with autism get a teacher all to themselves for most of the day. The exceptions to this are the more advanced children who work two to a teacher.

Also, many of these children work better with computers than they do with humans. That doesn't mean that humans should be taken out of the picture, but that the computer/robot can do what it's best suited for, and the human instructor can do what he or she is best suited for.

Re:Ummm (1)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805035)

Am I the only one who finds the idea of robots teaching autistic children to be social slightly ironic?

Oxymoronic maybe, because as far as I know social implies like organisms.

Re:Ummm (1, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805039)

No, I thought the exact same thing when I read the headline. Using emotionless, socially unconscious machines to "teach" autistic kids is absolutely bizarre--if not downright cruel. It's like a WoW player asking his guildmates for advice on picking up a girl.

Re:Ummm (1)

djdavetrouble (442175) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805407)

You know little to nothing about autistic people. While I understand the humor or your post, it shows little of the
social conciousness that you speak of. These are people that are socially and emotionally disconnected, I don't mean disconnected like
we can be, I mean literally the plug is gone from the socket never to return. Everything you know about teaching "normal"
people does not apply here. The "emotional social conciousness" stuff just does not apply at all to autistic people,
who have little to no hope of learning those kinds of things. What they could learn, though, are some valuable skills to
help them better get throuh the day.

Re:Ummm (2, Insightful)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805177)

As the parent of a mildly autistic child, this sounds brilliant.

It's all about PATIENCE. There are some behaviors that took enormous effort to drill into her. It required us providing consistent gentle reminders that some particular behavior was inappropriate. It does no good to get angry, it does no good to scream, these don't particularly register. It's very easy to get frustrated by the excessive repetitiveness.

Re:Ummm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19805743)

Why don't you just not give 15 mercury filled vaccines to small children/babies? Autism is rare/non-existent in communities that do not vaccinate or vaccinate later in life. Hepatitis is only transmitted by dirty needles and sex so why does a one day old need a vaccination against it? Educate before you vaccinate...

Sex-bot? (1, Offtopic)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804473)

How about an infinitely patient, loving, sex-bot to help everyone over the anxiety of their first few hundred experiences? After all, sex sells, meaning that you can finance the cost of robots for a lot of other functions, if it includes sex as well.

Re:Sex-bot? (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804615)

For some reason, I don't think it would be any easier hearing "It's okay, it happens to lots of guys" from a robot.

Re:Sex-bot? (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805067)

Depends on the self-esteem level of the sex-bot. The confident ones will say that it happens to lots of guys, but the bots with low self-esteem will take it personally (they couldn't excite you enough) and pout.

Re:Sex-bot? (1)

Mockylock (1087585) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805089)

It would only sell better if it dealt with sex and was environmentally sound with a small "carbon footprint".

Bizarre. (0, Troll)

mark-t (151149) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804483)

Who would have thought that the blind leading the blind could actually work?

Re:Bizarre. (2, Insightful)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804801)

Who would have thought that the blind leading the blind could actually work?

Technically, it's an incorrect analogy. It would be more like a guide dog leading the blind. The dog (in this case the robot) is trained to produce specific responses to specific situations, helping the user (the autistic child) to deal with those situations. Now the advantage is that autistic kids CAN learn... so they won't be dependent on the robots forever... I hope.

Waste of effort (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19804511)

I don't understand why anyone would spend their time working on robots to help what are effectively defects. Autistic people, like retards, can't be fixed. Their affliction is permanent. It's not like physical therapy with a cripple, at least they can benefit. I would be more interested in cripple-helping robots than retard babysitting robots.

Re:Waste of effort (1)

Alapapa (723716) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804585)

This is possibly the most insensitive thing I've ever read.

Autistic people are capable of development and many go on to lead productive, relatively normal lives.

Anything that aids in the development of an afflicted human mind or body is A-Ok in my book.

Re:Waste of effort (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19805187)

I dunno, I thought it was pretty funny. You have to imagine a stick figure saying it, then you have the "LOL FAG" Man drop in on the last frame. Check out Cyanide and Happiness to see what I'm drooling about.

Re:Waste of effort (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804587)

So rather than try to assist them in being as functional as possible, possibly even to the point that they can hold some sort of real job, you would rather that they remain completely disfunctional, sitting at home and draining taxpayers resources until they die?

Re:Waste of effort (2, Insightful)

provigilman (1044114) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804695)

Yeah and, you know, why waste time helping ALS sufferers? I mean, they can't really move around unassisted or even speak for that matter. Maybe we should just abandon them too? Of course that would mean no Stephen Hawkins, but hey, he's defective too...right? [/sarcasm]

Re:Waste of effort (2, Funny)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804697)

Sitting at home? Well, perhaps we better build some summer camps where the little autistic tykes learn some life skills such as paying attention, social interaction, and concentration, eh?

*ducks*

Re:Waste of effort (2, Interesting)

nullCRC (320940) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804819)

Sometimes that is not always the best way to reach autistic kids, nor the best learning setting. Many have difficulties with a "busy" or "loud" environment, which may set them off into a aggressive episode.

Re:Waste of effort (1)

CaseCrash (1120869) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804991)

I think that was supposed to be a Nazi joke:

Sitting at home? Well, perhaps we better build some summer camps where the little autistic tykes learn some life skills such as paying attention, social interaction, and concentration, eh?

Re:Waste of effort (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804795)

you would rather that they remain completely disfunctional, sitting at home and draining taxpayers resources until they die?
As far as I can tell, grandparent AC troll would rather that autistic or otherwise allegedly defective children be euthanized like in ancient Rome. I disagree.

Re:Waste of effort (1)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804961)

Considering that most 'actual' physical slights from autism stem from exceptional sensory input of some type (and probably the lack of neural pruning this causes), how would you test for this in a way that didn't penalize normal people somehow?

Seems ironic that society would penalize people who sense 'too much' the same way they do those that don't sense 'enough'...

Re:Waste of effort (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804673)

I'd use a mod point, but I want you to personally take the hit instead of some AC. I guess that you have never worked or been around autistic people....or you're deliberately trolling for an idiotic joke, for which you need to be kicked in unmentionable places and suffer multiple cheap shots.

Re:Waste of effort (5, Interesting)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804685)

That is incredibly ignorant. I have known several autistic people and have befriended a couple and I have seen MAJOR improvements after just being patient and excusing their inappropriate reactions and eccentricities. Just recognizing when they say something funny or make an appropriate social reaction to an event and brushing off the rest without being critical led one kid I know to grow up and live a very normal life. He comes off as a little eccentric to people when they first meet him, but his autism makes him a bit obsessive which actually makes him a great worker in fields which require insane levels of concentration and attention to detail (like engineering) because he really gets into whatever he likes.

Autism does not mean stupid and does not mean broken. Autism comes in many different levels of severity and type and people with autism can be a huge asset to society, thus the time spent educating them in social graces is money well spent.

Re:Waste of effort (2, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805029)

Seconded.

Though you are actually not looking at the GP argument in sufficient depth. It is a popular tendency today to brand even the smallest deviation from the average as autism and try to "cure" it or "compensate" for it. Plenty of lousy, lame and lazy teachers use this as an excuse to avoid children that require individual attention and do not study well in a group.

Many great brains and problem solvers are wiped in the process. Einstein would have been put on Ritalin by the age of 6 nowdays and we would have never had the theory of relativity. Same for Mozart and his symphonies. And I am not going to even mention extreme cases like Tesla who had a seriously bad case.

Re:Waste of effort (1)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804691)

I don't understand why anyone would spend their time working on robots to help what are effectively defects. Autistic people, like retards, can't be fixed. Their affliction is permanent. It's not like physical therapy with a cripple, at least they can benefit. I would be more interested in cripple-helping robots than retard babysitting robots.
1.) Autism is treatable with therapy and many autistic children gain a level of functionality where you probably couldn't tell they have autism.

2.) You're a jackass, go die and free up some carbon for useful purposes.

Re:Waste of effort (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19805063)

Excuse me, but WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE???!!! I have an autistic son. So, just to inform you: No, there is no such thing as "fixing". What can be done, and has been done, is to bring them out of their own world with physical and mental therapy. It just takes a lot of time and effort. And autistic children are not "retards" you asshole! There is no such thing as "retards", only disabilities. And by the way, many people on the autistic spectrum ( look it up since you're so ill-informed ) are experts in software & hardware engineering, musical prodigies, math wizards and so on. So why don't you take that pole that so wedged up so tightly out of your ass?

Re:Waste of effort (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19805127)

LOL. You made two mistakes. One was breeding. The other was you (or your fat wife) shat out a retard. Have fun supporting rain man until you die.

On the other side of the hand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19804623)

In Soviet Russia autistic kids teach social skills to robots!

Re:On the other side of the hand... (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804837)

In Soviet Russia autistic kids teach social skills to robots!
s/Soviet Russia/A.I. and a host of other Pinocchio-inspired SF/

it's been done before (2, Funny)

pedramnavid (1069694) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804641)

I learned all my social skills from the internet and look at me now. Who says autistic children can't do the same with robots?

Not just for Autistic Kids.... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19804645)



It worked for Al Gore too!

(P.S. - I personally like and would vote for Gore, but everyone is always saying that he's as stiff as a robot).

Next: Teaching Social Skills to Slashdot Reader (5, Funny)

Cr0w T. Trollbot (848674) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804651)

Slashdoter: "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

Robot: "Women are not impressed by your vast array of Monty Python Quotes."

Slashdoter: "I'll bite your kneecaps off!"

Robot: "Women are not impressed by your vast array of Monty Python Quotes."

Slashdotter: "It's merely resting, pining for the fjords."

Robot: "Women are not impressed by your vast array of Monty Python Quotes."

Next week: Watch the Robot attempt to disuade the Slashdotter from using an "In Soviet Russia" joke.

Slashdoter: "In Soviet Russia, robot programs you!"

Robot: "I'm just not getting through to you, am I?"

Crow T. Trollbot

Re:Next: Teaching Social Skills to Slashdot Reader (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19804881)

Robot: "Dorkiness of posting "in" jokes about slashdot to slashdot...Recursion error! Recursion error! Daisy....Daisy...give me your answer...."

Re:Next: Teaching Social Skills to Slashdot Reader (4, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805079)

Slashdoter: "In Soviet Russia, robot programs you!"

Robot: "I'm just not getting through to you, am I?"


Slashdotter: "In Soviet Russia, robots get through to you!

Robot: "ARGGGGGHHHH!!!!!!" *explodes*

Slashdotter: "In Soviet Russia, robots explode YOU!" *explodes*

Re:Next: Teaching Social Skills to Slashdot Reader (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19805099)

That's an interesting idea. However, I do have some issues with this:

0) We'll have arguments about the robot's form. Lucy Liu-bot, Natalie Portman, Bender, Marvin, or CowboyNeal?

1) It better damn well run Linux...but there won't be consensus as to which distro it should run. I'm hoping it will be Ubuntu Rusty Robot.

2) ???

3) We will need to make sure that in Soviet Russia, Robots teach you!

4) They'll announce the $100 one-robot-per-child project and we'll make fun of its Fisher-Price look.

5) We will wait for a $100 price drop before we consider purchasing one.

6) MS will say that the robot's Throw_Chair() method violates patented code in gorilla.bas

7) It will be featured on Slashdot ONLY if it can use an iphone

As an autistic person (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19804661)

this is cool this is cool this is cool this is cool robot robot robot ASSFACE DILDOHEAD cool cool cool 73 73 73

Irreplaceable... (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804723)

I don't mind it as a supplementation as long as it works, but there is going to be some idiot who thinks that this may be a replacement for parents...for which there can NEVER be a real replacement.

Re:Irreplaceable... (1)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804953)

I don't mind it as a supplementation as long as it works, but there is going to be some idiot who thinks that this may be a replacement for parents...for which there can NEVER be a real replacement.
This isn't some kind of "nanny bot" that is meant to be a care giver for autistic children. This is a simplified human-analog that helps autistic children associate specific facial gestures with specific emotional states, which is something that most autistics don't have an natural understanding of.

By providing a small sub-set of facial gestures that are always used the same way for the same reasons, these children can build that association into their subconscious understanding for future interactions with real people. It's no different than teaching kids to read using small words in short phrases, "see spot run", instead of giving them a dictionary.

Re:Irreplaceable... (1)

ggKimmieGal (982958) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804981)

Actually, I can see this robot as the for-runner for a nanny bot. If it works great with autistic kids, why not enhance it a little to work with normal children? I can see the robot having some kind of camera on it that feeds directly to a parent's PDA. Then, the robot could babysit the kids with the parents looking in. It's a scary thought.

Re:Irreplaceable... (1)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804993)

I don't mind it as a supplementation as long as it works, but there is going to be some idiot who thinks that this may be a replacement for parents...for which there can NEVER be a real replacement.
I don't really get where you're going with that. Who is the idiot going to be? A scientist who tries to kills some autistic kid's family so it can be raised by robots? An autistic kid's parent thinking they can dump their kid with a robot and never deal with it again? A politician deciding that robots are the parents of the future, declaring families illegal and taking all children into state-owned robot-run child farms to indoctrinate the boys as loyal soldiers and the girls as doting housewives?

Sorry, I just don't see who the idiot you describe would be or what you think they're going to do.

Re:Irreplaceable... (1)

shidobu (672566) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805497)

Most likely, wealthy, lazy parents who want to buy an autisti-bot to watch their kid, creating a market demand which someone who wants to make money will fill with a supply.

welcome (4, Funny)

ArCh3r (688116) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804773)

I for one warmly welcome our new teaching robots overlords and their socially adept autistic minions.

Autism (2, Insightful)

kernel_pat (964314) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804783)

I have talked to many autistic children and this is only going to teach them how to mimic social skills rather than solve the problem.

Re:Autism (2, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805287)

And what's the difference between having social skills and being able to fake having social skills?

Re:Autism (3, Interesting)

Jhon (241832) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805623)

And what's the difference between having social skills and being able to fake having social skills?
Alert: Speaking as someone with Aspergers!

From an outside observer, not much. From the INSIDE, it's an un-natural mechanism we learn to allow us to relate to others. It's a weird 'dance' that is never natural -- and if you hang around us enough, you'll notice repeats in virtually the exact same way. If we don't do the 'dance', we can't get to the 'stuff' we want.

Example:

Person: "Hi Jhon! How are you?"
Me: "Been better... been worse, can't complain"
Person: "Why do you always answer that?"
Me: "Because you always ask the same question.".

Actually, I'm not as bad as others on the spectrum (socially, that is). I'm lucky. I CAN emote quite well in writing, and pick up all kinds of queues in writing that I don't from faces of vocal inflections. If you see me pause after you say something to me it's probably me 'transcribing' the 'spoken word' to a 'pad' in my head which I then read-back to myself.

I got my wife to fall for me through daily letters. Happily married 10 years + 2 kids (+ another on the way), thank you! But god bless her, I'm not an easy person to live with!

Granted, we're talking about a SPECTRUM disorder -- most of my problems are related to perception of 'natural queues'. Others on the spectrum can have a variety of problems in addition...

Re:Autism (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805941)

That's simple -- it's just like the difference between swimming, and what a submarine does.

Wait, that didn't help, did it?

Re:Autism (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805393)

I have talked to many autistic children and this is only going to teach them how to mimic social skills rather than solve the problem.

Social skills are all about mimicry. Once someone can mimic the social norms of someone else, they are treated with less derision or fear, allowing them to learn (and hopefully mimic) more complex social skills. Even if this only brings kids a few steps along the spectrum, it's great! Asperger's beats full-on autism any day.

Re:Autism (1)

bdjacobson (1094909) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805419)

I have talked to many autistic children and this is only going to teach them how to mimic social skills rather than solve the problem.
Which is how they've always dealt with it in the past.

That's the whole thing about being autistic. Those things just don't click.

Huh? (5, Funny)

Das Auge (597142) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804921)

That's even worse than having a eunuch teach me about sex.

I take care of the place while the master is away. (1)

MS-06FZ (832329) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805583)

That's even worse than having a eunuch teach me about sex.
I don't know... sometimes the viewpoint of a neutral observer can be just the thing you need.

Fixing Autism? (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#19804971)

While I'm somewhat aware of the social problems faced by autistic children and their families, but don't said children also have their own special abilities that tend to be lost the more they are socialized?

Re:Fixing Autism? (1)

symes (835608) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805289)

Some, such as in the better known autistic savant [wikipedia.org] , do. And there's a whole bunch of stuff linking autism spectrum disorder and autism [bupa.co.uk] with certain abilities. But the bottom line is that without social skills (and I don't just mean trolling /. I mean kids and caregivers suffering because of the lack of) these guys are never going to do particularly well in life. So to your question "but don't said children also have their own special abilities that tend to be lost the more they are socialized?" I don't know any research suggesting autism can be "fixed" but there's plenty of evidence that in many cases those with autism can learn some social skills - some do really really well. Does this displace any additional abilities? Well, it might but it's probably more likely that they find themselves enjoying life a little more and have less need to repetitively engage in less social activities.

Re:Fixing Autism? (2, Interesting)

lantastik (877247) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805385)

I have a three year old son that is autistic and one of the most misunderstood things about autism is that all kinds of autism are the same. There are so many types/levels of autism that literally no two cases are alike. For instance, my son is not necessarily anti-social, but he becomes over-stimulated very easily.

Too many loud sounds or too many people in a social situation will cause him to introvert and exhibit what some people might consider weird behavior. That is the only time he really becomes anti-social. I am not really sure how a robot with a set pattern will cope with the different types of autism. It would only be effective for certain children. ...to answer the parent though, not all autistic children have special abilities. That being said, socializing them would not necessarily decrease the abilities of those that have them (a la Rain Man), but it would divert their singular focus from that special ability.

Re:Fixing Autism? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19805573)

Just because someone lacks a normal ability in one area doesn't mean they automatically get a strength in another area. Sometimes a disability in just a disability.

Philip K. Dick got first post on this one... (1)

Sparagmei (877929) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805059)

<butters>PHILIP K. DICK DID IT! PHILIP K. DICK DID IT!</butters>

Seriously, this is straight out of "Martian Time-Slip". True, Dick imagined autism as an inability to comprehend time & space in the same manner as others, but the robotic perception-offset helper is still a pretty awesome idea. From 1964.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martian_Time-Slip [wikipedia.org]

Muu is much cuter (1)

Nigel Stepp (446) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805135)

There's a squishy robot called Muu [nis.atr.jp] , which is actually social with other robots as well. Muu has had promising results with autistic children.

Words of caution (5, Insightful)

scaz (182686) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805185)

While the use of robots with children with autism has generated intense interest from a variety of research groups (mine included), one thing that the media often leaves out when reporting these stories is that these studies are still experimental. There have been no published studies to date that show long-term behavioral change following interaction trials with robots, only one case study that has looked at long-term effects of these interactions, and no studies that have shown any transfer of skills from human-robot interaction to human-human interaction.

Every time an article like this is published, my office and my colleagues are barraged with requests from individuals, families, and educators looking for the robot that will "cure" autism. While everyone working in this area has great hopes for what is possible, we don't yet have any clinical or experimental data to support any claims of effectiveness.

Re:Words of caution (1)

symes (835608) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805391)

Have you looked at the research which suggests kids who learn from the TV (e.g. Sesame St) tend to do worse over time (socially) than kids whose parents took greater interest? It's ages since I looked at any of this... but all this teaching autistic kids made me think of it and started to wonder whether anyone has looked at the effects of those plastic toys that help kids learn the alphabet, etc.. It would be great if the ABCs of social interaction could be taught with robots, though and wish you luck.

Counterproductive? (4, Interesting)

rehtonAesoohC (954490) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805285)

While I understand that while robots are infinitely patient and can help an autistic child learn on that basis, wouldn't that be counterproductive?

What I mean by that is that while robots are infinitely patient, society is not. An average person in social situations is not patient indefinitely, so why would we teach them that social situations mean perfect patience? I'm not trying to be mean-spirited or cruel sounding; I am genuinely curious as to whether or not these autistic children would grow up understanding that everyone everywhere can tolerate their quirks with infinite patience.

Then again, it might be a catch-22 in itself... Autistic child can't learn unless the teacher exudes perfect patience, human teacher can't accomplish that, child can't learn, etc.

But then again, maybe it's not so cut-and-dried as that and people could maybe work on being more patient? That would seem ideal to me.

Re:Counterproductive? (2, Insightful)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805409)

It took a much more patient teacher to teach us that the derivative of x2 was x/2 and the integral of x was 1/2x^2+C than the lesson that the integral of sin(x) was cos(x) even though the latter is generally a more advanced concept.

Re:Counterproductive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19805939)

What does calculus have to do with teaching some poor autistic kid by a toaster?

Why not teach them the conditions as well? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19805423)

Ok, for some a robot would be better, but for some autistics is would be a lot more clearcut to just know the conditional "flowchart" for the responses so that they can predict them with less effort.

Whilst this can seem like a strange idea do remember that many (maybe even most) autistics can follow the flow of sourcecode and checklists with relativly little effort, so why not give them the list of conditions and responses that the robot is set to follow and allow them to absorb that as well?

Autism and Robots (1)

obergfellja (947995) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805431)

I know this probably has already been said once or twice before, but I feel that children with autism can not have any replacement for social interaction, but having tools (like these robots) only to aid in the process of social interaction. Starting out going from Zero interaction (outside of inner family interaction), to the robotic doll/action figure, to adding a friend that could understand where the child is coming from, 2 children, 4... and so on, until the child is comfortable in a normal setting with a wide variety of people, children and adults. I don't claim to be an expert in child development, but I have worked with enough children (with and with out autism) to understand their comfort zone and how to slowly expand this zone outside his/her-self. Each child (regardless) has a different level of tollerence(sp?) for this and will adapt at their own pace.

What's with the tags (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19805483)

Is there a secret slashdot society that gathers together and decide that "thisisareallyreallyreallyreallylongtag" is a super-funny tag, and they hop to it en-masse?

Reliable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19805883)

Let me get this straight, they want to create a computer controlled machine which has "reliability and predictability?"

And it will run which OS?

If the Robot's running Windows (2, Funny)

DangerJones (1125935) | more than 6 years ago | (#19805905)

"How do we say thank you to the nice man, little Timmy?"

"ST- ST- STOP 0X0000000A W- W- WINDOWS H- H- HAS..."
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