When I went to school for my psychology degree, it was quite common for my classmates to sign up as assistants for people who were doing applied behavior analysis (ABA) training and therapy for children with autism. Now, we could be looking at much more technological approach.
Say hello to Kaspar. He might look like some creepy doll who would be hanging out with Chucky on the weekends, but he’s actually a specially designed bot to help autistic children better recognize human emotions and social cues. That’s the biggest struggle with autism and it could be due to the variability in human responses.
That’s how Kaspar is supposed to help. His responses to stimuli — like when the child tickles his feet — are exactly the same every time. This helps the children get a better sense of predictability. That makes the world less scary for them and, as such, they slowly become better equipped to recognize social cues and emotional responses.
At least, that’s the idea. For my part, Kaspar just looks like a creepy doll. But hey, if he really is effective, all the more power to his creators.
[University of Hertfordshire]