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Nov 09, 2012, 03.20 PM IST | Source: PTI

Now, dancing robots to teach autistic kids

Dancing robots may be better at improving the communication skills of children with autism than human teachers, researchers believe.

Dancing robots may be better at improving the communication skills of children with autism than human teachers, researchers believe. Evidence emerging from a trial suggests that pupils who are on the autistic spectrum learn better from the automatons than human teachers.

Researchers say that if they can be proven to help difficult to reach youngsters, then in the future they could also be used to help pupils in mainstream classes. Robots are being used as classroom buddies for autistic children in a groundbreaking initiative that aims to improve social interaction and communication.

Max and Ben, two knee-high humanoid robots that can dance to "Thriller", play games and emulate Tai Chi, are to be showcased by researchers at the University of Birmingham as part of the ESRC festival of Social Sciences. The Aldebaran robots, which have been trialled by pupils at Topcliffe Primary School in Castle Vale, Birmingham since March, are the latest in a range of innovative technologies that was on display at the school.

The event is about using technologies to help children with autism. Children, teachers and researchers will demonstrate the latest technologies and share their experiences of using them in the classroom. "We have been looking at how technology can support pupils with autism to communicate more effectively," Dr Karen Guldberg, from the University of Birmingham's School of Education, said.

"Pupils and teachers are experimenting with the robots and other technologies in a developmental way and they are showing significant benefits for the classroom. The robots have been modelling good behaviour and acting as buddies," Guldberg said. Research shows that children with autism often find computers and technology safe, motivating and engaging, particularly inthe areas of social interaction and communication.

Aldebaran robotics are world leaders in the development of a humanoid robot. Topcliffe have hosted two robots in their classrooms since March 2012.

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