Kaspar is a humanoid social robot, designed by researchers at the University of Hertfordshire to support autistic children with social communication and interactions. Led by Dr David Silvera-Tawil (CSIRO and UNSW), the Creative Robotics Lab (CRL) have a Kaspar robot on hand to conduct research examining the usefulness of a humanoid robot as a tool for enacting Social Stories.
Social Stories are a tool that Dr David Silvera-Tawil and Dr Scott Brown are using to help autistic children scaffold their social interactions in a controlled space, before applying these skills with other children. In collaboration with each child’s parents or carers, an individual plan is made for the child to ‘practice’ interactions or other social skills that the child may be having difficulty with. By enacting these with or alongside Kaspar, the child can experience and learn these skills through an interaction that is repeatable and manages expectations.
Kaspar has been designed to limit ambiguity in facial expressions and behaviour. Unlike humans whom often behave in unexpected or unclear ways, a programmable robot is thought to be a useful ‘stepping stone’ to more complex and demanding social interactions.
Silvera-Tawil and Brown have found that Kaspar can be most helpful as a supporting or mediating tool in clinical settings. As a presence for a clinician to refer to, or use to prime a child for other tasks, Kaspar shows promise. The researchers are currently looking to build on this exploratory study and welcome enquiries for collaboration and further development.
Kaspar in the news
- How Kaspar the robot is helping autistic students to socialise (ABC News)
- Social robots teaching students life skills (ABC Radio)