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Robot Helps Children With Autism

There's a new form of therapy for children with autism, and it comes in the form of a robot. This robot, named NAO, is programmed by University of Denver professors. According to engineering professor Mohammad Mahoor, this project is aimed at one goal, and that is to develop better social interaction among children with autism.

NAO is a humanoid robot capable of moving and interacting with a human being. It can hear you, talk to you, and even recognize you. It can even do the Macarena and dance to newer hits.

I'm sure that this would be the kind of toy most of us would long for back in the day. But given NAO's capabilities, there can be no doubt that even adults will want to have one of their own.

However, NAO is so much more than a toy. And it comes with quite a price tag, too, to the tune of around $8,000. So you may want to reconsider before you go charging after one.

NAO is controlled by a computer using a special kind of Linux-based software, which is called NAOqi. It has four microphones for sound localization and voice recognition, two speakers used for text-to-speech synthesis, and a couple of HD cameras used for the robot's vision and gives it facial and shape recognition capabilities.

NAO is projected to not only be useful in dealing with autism, but with depression and dementia among others. The concept of using robots to address these issues is fairly new, but the results are promising and there's certainly room for future propagation.

The potential for using robots to help children with autism

http://autism.about.com/od/autismterms/g/What-Is-Autistic-Disorder.">Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems in communication (both verbal and non-verbal), and repetitive behavior. So as you can imagine, interacting with other individuals can be quite an overwhelming experience for kids with autism.

However, since robots like NAO are incapable of displaying certain human behaviors like facial expressions and complicated gestures and are only limited to performing simple movements and actions, kids can better zone in and identify with these simpler messages. This then leads to a level of interaction that otherwise would not be possible if the child is faced with an actual human being.

The same thing is applicable for individuals with other disorders like dementia. These individuals experience and see the world around them differently, and robots like the NAO can be used to aid them with their "baby steps" toward more complex interactions.

A good thing with employing the help of these robots is that unlike us humans, they will never get tired, they will never run out of patience, and they deliver performance consistently. Dealing with kids with special needs is a challenge in itself, so it's a good thing that technology has provided another tool for them to use. 

Further studies have to be conducted to determine if robots have a crucial role to play in helping out children with autism. Whatever the case may be, these robots are still fantastic and definitely fun to use.

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