Research is something I rarely do. When the current topic of Robots / Humanoids – their intrusion or inclusion in our lives was tossed up I was told this would require me to do some research. The only humanoid I know is Chitti ( not even 2.0) from the movie Robot (Indian movie). I was a bit reluctant for you know I am lazy at another level. But going deep into the description about what we are expected to write about it I found it really interesting, so decided to “Hail Google”.
Well not beating around the bush and coming to the point I was very much interested to see how a robot or humanoid can prove or proving to be helpful for kids with special needs. As I scrolled down different pages available on the internet. It was really interesting to see how the introduction of humanoids is registering their importance in helping kids with special needs. Learning and communication have seen evident levels of improvement. And one thing I noticed is that as I was surfing different pages content of every page was different as in the countries where experiments were done, the robots involved, the figures and so on. Let me share a few examples :
- International Robotics founder and President Robert Doornick says robots are especially effective at teaching socialization skills to autistic children. When kids interact with robots, he says, they “no longer worry about being criticized or judged by their behaviour or inadequacies, and are free to interact with a robot because it’s just a cool toy.” – This one is from the US.
- Companion robot Matilda helps Australian teachers create engaging learning environments for special needs students while improving their cognitive skills – an example from Australia.
- Meet “Alphabot,” our very own, interactive, 23-inch-tall humanoid robot who offers many new, exciting possibilities for students at Alpha School. This small, but mighty special education teaching tool is opening doors to the minds of our students. This is in New Jersey.
- Source: Google
So every page I checked into opened up a can of new ideas for me about how can my child get benefitted if at all we introduce a robot to him. My child is autistic and obviously, socialization and communication are the blocks we are working on to tumble them as effectively as we can. With school and weekly sessions after schools through things moving in right direction no matter how slowly I am just wondering what could be the impact of having a big talking toy taking charge of effective interaction with my child in the way he likes (don’t think I am a billionaire, I am just toying with the idea)
As far as I know, my child, he does get attracted towards anything mechanical but his interests never sustain for a long time. For example a few months back we bought him a musical keyboard as I saw him interested in the same. For the first few days, he did play it, experimenting with different keys and kept himself engaged. As the keys no longer seemed to be suspense for him his interest waived off. On the other hand, he is still interested in the tablet (only watches for about 30-45 minutes in a day) as the visuals and the sounds are more interactive in the sense he sings along, learns along. There are many things like names of colours, animals & their sounds, numbers, alphabets, rhymes etc that he learned from YouTube apart from what we teach him. Going by what I saw I believe a fully loaded humanoid with artificial intelligence in the techniques concerning a kid with special needs could be of great help. The peculiar voice (for machine nevertheless it is and I would prefer it that way only) will be the first thing to engage his interest and with a toy interacting with him just the way he likes it communication is something I am expecting to improve.
Another area that slightly lacks my investment is spending time with my son. Though I try my level best to keep him engaged with me in many ways – cooking or plain talking or activities but I often sense that the amount of time devoted is less than what it takes, thanks to the circle of chores. A humanoid fully functioning for him I can be sure of the time spent interacting. And with the controls in our hand, his safety is something we can be sure of. And I also believe a robot can be an immense help in controlling him physically amidst his meltdowns. And who knows if it could give him a massage which I am unaware of targeting the correct points calming him down effectively. With my strength obviously on a descending note over the years to come to a helping hand handling him will a big advantage for obvious reasons that the involvement of a machine will surely pause his agitated momentum and he will take notice calmly.
Not just about communication I believe these mechanical replacements to human aid can go a long way in making them independent as in not dependent on any human being for their daily little needs. For instance, my son now daily throws a tantrum to brush his teeth which I feel is a result of his oversensitivity to things, in this case, the feel of brush on his teeth or gums. It’s a constant fight for me to make him brush his teeth, he really gets upset and tries to use violence (just flapping hands to ward off me) to escape it. Things could be different if it’s his toy friend in place of me. He can hold him more firmly and possibly get it done more smoothly. Might assist him in things like dressing up, wearing shoes, cooking up his breakfast and so on making him more and more independent. And that’s all in care for when I am gone.
Though an idea but I would say a wonderful one with a possibility of yielding better results when in tune with responsible humans for humanoids at the end of the day need commands/programming, for their processes thoughts are a result of our thought process. What say? I would love to have such a humongous toy for my son to be with him for life.