Mini-bot QT: An Assistance for Children with Autism Disorder

Currently, the University of Luxembourg is conducting a research aiming at improving the emotional expression of children suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A mini-bot from LuxAI named QTrobot can be the connecting link between autistic children, parents, and therapists.

Mini-bot QT An Assistance for Children with Autism Disorder
QTrobot: A New Emotional Aid For ASD Kids

The much-anticipated project comes from  Luxor, an offshoot of the University of Luxembourg.  Dr. Andreia Costa and Prof. Dr. Georges Steffgen from the INSIDE research department led the PoC project funded by the FNR. They will present their findings at the RO-MAN 2018 this month.

The said robot will feature robotic arms and an LCD face will further allow the kids who are overawed by human contact to become more relaxed in a therapeutic environment.

Co-founder Aida Nazarikhorram told IEEE, “The robot has the ability to create a triangular interaction between the human therapist, the robot, and the child. Immediately the child starts interacting with the educator or therapist to ask questions about the robot or give feedback about its behavior.”

Surprisingly, robots are preferable for children than a tablet or an app, since the robot is in material form, the researchers concluded that it improves learning by drawing attention, especially when paralleled with a standard educational/iPad pairing. In essence, kids work with robots and play with tablets.

The robot is easily programmable and entirely self-contained. It includes a full processor and a 3D camera and can run for hours at a time.

Instead of becoming the focus of the therapy, the robot helps the patients connect with the therapists. Of course, it is an outstanding outcome for an outstanding (and adorable) little piece of technology.

To further facilitate the learning of essential emotional concepts for the child and to net all his attention, this study suggests a training through a very particular teacher; the QT robot.

The necessity of an emotional workout

Children with ASD undergo many emotional difficulties in controlling, recognizing, and understanding emotions. These complications can be revealed by internalized behaviors (self-restraint, anxiety, sadness) or conversely, by various highly visible behaviors (irritability, outbursts, fits, self-harm behaviors).

However, these emotional instabilities are not included under the diagnosis of ASD. They are one of the prominent causes of why parents seek expert help.

To address the emotional problems and the regulation of these, there are already some therapies that have proven beneficial for these kids. Nevertheless, these therapies are seldom accessible. Either they are not offered by all services or cost a bomb, or they are simply not compatible with the needs of the child (need for predictability, simplicity, and repetition).

To facilitate children’s access to care and to meet the specific needs of children with ASD, the emotional coaching is administered by the QT robot. The aim is to study the efficacy of robot- arbitrated training in enhancing the emotional skills of children with ASD at the level of understanding, recognition, and control of emotions.

Why use a robot?

The new researches have revealed that when technological tools are involved in training, children have better results. The fact that children with ASD would be more sensitive to robotic interactions than to human interactions because they would be less complex, easier to predict and therefore more reassuring for them, explains the new findings.

This seemingly amusing robot is more fascinating than the ordinary therapeutic methods and would definitely capture all the attention of the child thus transmitting the necessary knowledge of understanding his as well as other emotions to the child.

Lastly, the QT robot is a chum. He does not wear out and never tires out of repeating important information to learn while giving the child positive feedback throughout his learning.