USC researchers are looking for families to help with two studies they are conducting to find ways that robotics technology might benefit children on the autism spectrum – or those with other disabilities.
The first study looks at ways that robots might help promote development in infants with or at risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders. All babies explore the space around them and learn about the effects of the movements they make through something researchers call “motor babbling.” They move around, see what happens and learn to make those movements again to produce desired results (for example, grasping an object or kicking a ball). Babies who engage in less of this exploration are at risk of developmental delay.
Researchers are working to create a robot to entice babies to explore and perform certain social, motor or thinking behaviors. In one example, when a baby moves his or her foot, the companion robot moves its foot and kicks a ball – possibly prompting the baby to repeat the action. The researchers are ready to look at additional behaviors, and are looking for 6- 8-month-old infants with typical development to help. Families that are interested can contact Beth Smith, PT, Ph.D. at firstname.lastname@example.org or 323-442-4072.
The second study investigates ways that students not otherwise able to attend school can attend virtually with the help of a telepresence robot. Many students miss considerable amounts of school for health or behavioral reasons, and these robots – which a child can control from home – can let them continue learning and have a social classroom presence during their absences. Students can navigate the robots around the classroom and use them to video chat with teachers and fellow students.
Researchers are looking for students ages 9-14 who can read and write in English to use the robots to attend school for one month. The robot can be controlled by the child using their personal computer, or a computer provided by researchers for the duration of the study. The study will help researchers understand how best to help children learn and interact with teachers and peers when they cannot attend school in person. Children who participate will be awarded a $200 Amazon gift card. Interested families should contact Naomi Fitter, Ph.D. at email@example.com.