Research has shown that robots help improve educational and social skills, but more studies are needed to find out how to adapt to these changes and translate them into the real world.
How does AI play into this? Technology has advanced, but research has also been done on how perceptions are formed, how people can guess each other’s feelings and thoughts, and what emotional intelligence is. These insights can be translated into algorithms that allow robots to interpret speech, gestures, and complex verbal and nonverbal cues as well as learn from feedback.
Daniel Kovacs, who teaches third-grade special education in Hopkatong, NJ, said he would be interested to see what further research shows. “Most of the time to teach social skills to students with autism is to read facial expressions, read body language and choose the social cues of others. Can a robot mimic the things we learn from humans?” She said. Dr. Kovach is also the president of the Council for Specialized Education Professionals, an exceptional children’s council.
While social robots are primarily used in research studies, there is a new market for classrooms and individuals. For example, the Luxembourg-based company LuxAI has been selling a friendly looking QTRobot designed for parents with autism since the beginning of 2021; Currently it works only in English and French.
Children with autism interact with the robot every day for 10 minutes to an hour, depending on their age and the level of support they need, said Ida Nazari, co-founder of LuxAI. The company has sold several hundred QTRObots, mainly to families in the United States, she added. But many families may find that the social robot is too expensive at the moment: QTRobot costs $ 2,000 plus a $ 129 monthly software subscription, which includes support services.
Rachel Ricci was the first person in Canada to order a QTRobot, received in February 2021. His son, Caden, 10, was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old. Caden and his parents or physicians use tablets to play games aimed at enhancing their academic social skills and naming emotions. The QTRobot promoter serves as a third friend and teacher.
She uses it for 30 minutes five days a week, and “QT helps her boost her confidence,” Ms. Ricky said. Getting a robot during an epidemic was life-saving, she added: when school was closed and physicians were unavailable, most of her classmates returned to Montreal school for people with autism, Caden remained on track. Ms. Ricci credits QTRobot with it.