Effects of repeated exposure of a humanoid robot on children with autism
This work is part of the Aurora project which investigates the possible use of robots in therapy and education of children with autism (Aurora 2003), based on findings that people with autism enjoy interacting with computers, e.g. (Powell, 1996). In most of our trials we have been using mobile robots, e.g. (Dautenhahn and Werry, 2002). More recently we tested the use of a humanoid robotic doll. In (Dautenhahn and Billard, 2002) we reported on a first set of trials with 14 autistic subjects interacting with this doll. In this paper we discuss lessons learnt from our previous study, and introduce a new approach, heavily inspired by therapeutic issues. A longitudinal study with four children with autism is presented. The children were repeatedly exposed to the humanoid robot over a period of several months. Our aim was to encourage imitation and social interaction skills. Different behavioural criteria (including Eye Gaze, Touch, and Imitation) were evaluated based on the video data of the interactions. The paper exemplifies the results that clearly demonstrate the crucial need for long-term studies in order to reveal the full potential of robots in therapy and education of children with autism.