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AP News: Kaspar the friendly robot helps autistic kids

I have heard of this kind of therapy before, how autistic kids tend to respond better to robots teaching them emotions and proper social responses; the robot acts as a sort of bridge, or neutral third party for the kid:

STEVENAGE, England (AP) – Eden Sawczenko used to recoil when other little girls held her hand and turned stiff when they hugged her. This year, the 4-year-old autistic girl began playing with a robot that teaches about emotions and physical contact – and now she hugs everyone.

“She’s a lot more affectionate with her friends now and will even initiate the embrace,” said Claire Sawczenko, Eden’s mother.

The girl attends a pre-school for autistic children in Stevenage, north of London, where researchers bring in a human-looking, child-sized robot once a week for a supervised session. The children, whose autism ranges from mild to severe, play with the robot for up to 10 minutes alongside a scientist who controls the robot with a remote control.

The robot, named Kaspar, is programmed to do things like smile, frown, laugh, blink and wave his arms. He has shaggy black hair, a baseball cap, a few wires protruding from his neck, and striped red socks. He was built by scientists at the University of Hertfordshire at a cost of about 1,300 pounds (US$2,118).

http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_6418/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=X0CCVnY5

It’s also nice to hear a story about robots helping people, rather than the usual scenarios we hear and see like from Matrix and Terminator.

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