What results are expected during the project and on its completion?

Potential longer term benefits
  • mapping of specific country needs of children with autism and their families 
  • mapping on practicioner’s needs in using assisstive technology 
  • developed robot’s software scenarios 
  • developed complementary Apps for personal mobile device
  • production of educational materials like videos
  • training events and number of trainees&learners
  • multiplier events
  • final reports, findings and scientific papers.
Expected key results:

We are expecting the concept of KASPAR in conjunction with complementary Apps for personal mobile devices to be effective and produce improvement in the joint attention, engagement and reciprocal communication in children with autism. We are expecting to see that the children with autism are accepting KASPAR as the mediator, that they are engaging, learning and gaining new skills like eye contact, playing together, taking turns, speech improvement, new daily skills etc. Also, that they are using the complementary Apps for personal mobile devices in the daily life as continuation of the intervention. These expectations are based on previous experience with children with autism, applied research with KASPAR as well as research on the potential added value of KASPAR for children according to autism professionals and other stakeholders.

In addition to the results listed under intellectual outputs and multiplier events, the main result that we are expecting to see is that the skills children with autism will gain through this intervention, will be generalized in interaction with the human beings. Unlike other robots, KASPAR has humanoid features very similar to human ones and is providing tactile exploration to the child that can be later transmitted in human interaction. Moreover, the KASPAR platform allows for personalization of the interventions which is crucial for the highly diverse nature of autism.

Also, results of this feasibility study will be used to inform the progression to a full study. Advancing this first feasibility study of a robot mediated intervention and complementary Apps for personal mobile devices is hoped to provoke replications. Dissemination of the study findings and published scientific papers will allow broader groups of practitioners to consider the use of the novel approach and put it in use to the benefit of a wider number of children with autism.

Furthermore, engagement of the ICT students in learning activities (C2 and multiplier events) that will familiarize them with the concept of autism, the challenges of the children with autism and their families, will enable them to create and develop assistive applications for this especially challenging target group.

In general, we can say that if this concept proves successful we can expect:
  •  improved quality of life in children with autism and their families and siblings
  • increased social inclusion and better learning skills since the challenging behaviors of the children with autism will decrease as the
    communication skills will increase
  • improved learning in children with autism at the behavior is better managed and
  • less stressful life for the child and his family
  • increased social equity and inclusion.

In what way is the project innovative and/or complementary to other projects already carried out?

This project is innovative in many ways.
The proposed project is a new and highly interdisciplinary initiative combining robotics, ICT and other disciplines like cognitive sciences, developmental psychology, pedagogy, human-machine interface and others, in order to open a dedicated possibility for technologies to meet the needs of children with autism and their caregivers. The use of humanoid robot in interventions for children

with autism is growing in the last few years and the initial research results are very promising. The use of assistive robot technology in interventions for children with autism is innovative by itself.
Using the humanoid robot in conjunction with complementary Apps for personal mobile devices has never been tried before. It is a novel approach designed to support and stimulates children with autism in acquisition of skills beyond intervention sessions i. e. in daily life context. The results that the therapists will obtain during the intervention sessions are expected to be empowered by using the complementary Apps that simulate the sessions with the robot KASPAR.

Should the approach of using the robot in conjunction with complementary Apps for personal mobile devices in intervention purposes result in provision of satisfactory effects, this project would lay forward basis toward introduction of a brand new approach to be used as an intervention tool for children with autism. If successful, this project would be a basis for a future large clinical trial as well as further development of the humanoid robots and Apps for personal mobile devices that will evaluate the effectiveness of using this technology as an intervention tool for children with autism.

Also, this would be a first use of KASPAR in the clinical settings.
In addition to this, the project aims to raise the awareness about the children with autism and the everyday problems they face. It aims at training the ICT students in recognizing the challenge of working for and with such an demanding target group and make them more familiarize and comfortable at creating hardware/software solutions for this target group.