The New Face of Autism Therapy
Jun 03, 2010, 22:32 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Gregory Mone)
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[ Thanks to dr.
Hannibal Lecter for this link. ]
"Matari´c used to research military applications,
but as she raised a family, she decided that she "didn't want to be
the mommy who builds killer robots." And Bandit does not resemble a
killer in the slightest. When I first encountered the robot at
Matari´c's USC lab last July, it was powered down and
standing still. Compact arms with bulging triceps hung at its side.
Its rounded, hairless gray head resembled a mannequin's, and its
torso sat on a base stacked with a Linux computer, speakers, a
router, batteries, and an electric motor to drive the wheeled
"legs." Its small stature, playful face, and moveable,
rubber-covered wire lips all gave it a harmless, come-play-with-me
charm. For additional kid appeal, the group attached one of the
bubble blowers used in diagnostic tests to the base and added a
clicking noise that many autistic kids find soothing.
"I was transfixed by Bandit's humanlike face and silvery eyes,
but researchers have been careful to avoid making it look too
human. A realistic face could be off-putting, since autistic
children often find other children intimidating. Matari´c
wanted the difference to be clear. "The robot is not a substitute
for other people," she says. "It's a catalyst. It's not like the
movie AI. I didn't want to do the perfect boy who's a robot.""
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