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Meet Orbit, the Interactive Robot That Looks to Help Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders Develop Social Skills

0 2 years ago

“Hey there. Allow me to introduce you to your new companion, Orbit, a robot you can play with and listen to. Not only can Orbit hear you, they can feel you too.”

The hand-sized robot smiles and encourages users to press a button on its back, reacting with a beaming smile if pressed gently, and with a sad face if the interaction is too hard.

“Oh no, it looks like you pressed too hard, Orbit is sad and in need of cheering up, try tickling their belly and see if that will work.”

Orbit is an interactive robot that aims to teach children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) about emotions and social appropriateness through storytelling, physical interaction, and visual communication.

It’s the work of recent Product Design and Technology graduate Ben Powell, who has first-hand experience of how difficult and scary it can be for young children with ASD to socialize having been diagnosed with mild high functioning autism himself.

“A common difficulty for children with ASD is that sometimes they struggle to socialize with others due to emotional recognition issues; they’re sometimes unable to detect what people are feeling from what they are saying, and I struggled with that,” Ben explained, “I wanted to create something that will help.”

There are several existing interventions led by speech and language therapists that aim to teach children with ASD emotional recognition and robots with such capabilities are being developed for schools, but they can be expensive.

Inspired by his own experiences and identifying a gap in the market, Ben created Orbit as part of his final year project to allow children with ASD to see emotions in context and develop their social skills independently.


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