A robot with artificial skin under development at Hertfordshire University will allow researchers to investigate how robots can help children with autism learn about social interaction.
Prof Kerstin Dautenhahn and her team at the university’s School of Computer Science are part of a European consortium that is working on the three-year Roboskin project to develop a robot with skin and embedded tactile sensors.
According to the researchers, this is the first time that this approach has been used to work with children with autism.
The researchers will work on Kaspar: a child-sized humanoid robot developed by the Adaptive Systems research group at the university. The robot is currently being used by Dr Ben Robins and his colleagues to encourage social-interaction skills in children with autism.
They will cover Kaspar with robotic skin and Dr Daniel Polani, a reader in artificial life, will develop sensor technologies that can provide tactile feedback from areas of the robot’s body.
‘Children with autism have problems with touch, often with either touching or being touched,’ said Dautenhahn. ‘The idea is to put skin on the robot as touch is a very important part of social development and communication and the tactile sensors will allow the robot to detect different types of touch and it can then encourage or discourage different approaches.’
The Roboskin project is being co-ordinated by Prof Giorgio Cannata of Università di Genova in Italy. Other partners in the consortium are: Università di Genova, Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne, the Italian Institute of Technology, the University of Wales at Newport and Università di Cagliari.