Elche, February 12, 2016
Aisoy Robotics, from the Parque Científico-Empresarial Universdad Miguel Hernández (PCUMH), recently confirmed that their educational robots may become an important tool to assist children with autism and their caregivers.
More and more people are gradually counting on technology for educational purposes. Primary, high schools and other educational centers view robotics as a tool with great potential to support the learning and development of children. Recent studies show that educational robotics encourage creativity, stimulate emotions and improve communication, among many other benefits. More specifically, these devices are very useful in therapies, with hyperactive children as well as kids affected by the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as they can help them in focusing attention as well as promoting communication.
Aisoy Robotics, a company located at Parque Científico-Empresarial of Miguel Hernández University (PCUMH) in Elche, has recently confirmed that their devices can become an important tool to support children with autism and their caregivers. Lisa Armstrong, a US resident and Manager of the NGO Fellow Man International Foundation for the development of the Honduran society, recently contacted the company. In her emails, she described how the Aisoy1 robot had changed her life and, specially, that of her son Juan, whom she adopted as a baby while working as a Medical Missionary in Honduras. Shortly after he turned two, a neuropaediatrician diagnosed the child with autism: "He stopped talking, playing and interacting, he withdrew into himself," said Lisa.
When Lisa returned to the US from Honduras, her hopes to find better therapies and treatments increased, although after several years of research she found that none of them were successful. She went on to explain that the situation got worse when the child began to show an aggressive attitude and she received misbehavior alerts from school. "In the midst of despair, wanting to help my son, I found a scientific article from Tufts University talking about the potential benefits of androids for autistic children," commented Lisa in her email. After an extensive search and price comparison between different devices, Lisa observed that the recommended robots far exceeded several thousand euros, something unaffordable for her economy. But then she found Aisoy1. An educational robot accessible to her, with a price 20 times lower than other devices she had seen.
Despite her limited computer skills, she learned one her own how to program the robot in Scratch. A language widely used in recent years by children and people with limited experience who want to learn how to program. This way, she managed to write her first routines. Only after six weeks that Juan had begun to interact with the robot, the results became visible: "My son began to come to life. He played with the robot, he laughed and repeated the words the device said. He was excited and happy," says Lisa, who sent a video of her son enjoying his interaction with the robot. Furthermore she adds that since Juan works with the Aisoy1 robot he has increased and improved his vocabulary, as shown in this other video.
This story deeply moved the team at Aisoy Robotics. They were amazed with Juan's story. "You are inevitably moved when you are in Lisa's position, a story of love, courage and will. Then you think about the potential of robotics and how it can contribute and alleviate the effects of health disorders such as autism," says José Manuel del Río, CEO of Aisoy Robotics. He adds: "But above all, it's incredibly satisfying to know that the technology that we have created can help so many people."Although these robot devices are still not standard in this type of therapies, the head of the company says that they are already being used in several centers. In fact, only a few months ago, Aisoy held a series of activities, in collaboration with the Tamarit Association at Elche which aids hyperactive children. "It was truly a success. Thanks to this robot, we managed to keep them focused and alert during the twenty minutes the action took place," points del Río.
Aisoy1 is a programmable social robot capable of talking, playing and even feeling through an advanced emotional motor. In addition, it can make head movements and facial expressions. Aisoy1 can also express itself through facial movements such as blinking, movement of eyebrows or heartbeat. These capabilities create an emotional bond with the user, something very useful for activities where emotions are an essential component. The new version of this robot, which has been in the market for only a few months, will soon include the Airos 6 operating system with which it will become an independent and autonomous device capable of understanding orders, answering questions, moving on its own and even starting a conversation.
This technology is gradually being introduced for this type of disorders. Although still at an early stage, this robotic aid may become a great breakthrough when facing such invisible and silent enemies.