The video: An affectionate, human-mimicking machine has helped a group of autistic children in England overcome their aversion to intimacy. (View video below.) Kaspar, built by scientists at the University of Hertfordshire for just over $2,000, has been programmed to laugh, blink, wave his arms, and imitate other human responses, with the goal of demystifying social cues for autistic kids. The robot's "skin" is coated with silicone patches that feel like human skin, and the most advanced version of Kaspar can even play Nintendo Wii. Kaspar's creators hope to eventually mass-produce such machines for a few hundred dollars each.
The reaction: "Children with autism don't react well to people because they don't understand facial expressions," says autism expert Ben Robins, as quoted by the Associated Press. "Robots are much safer for them because there's less for them to interpret and [robots] are very predictable." Indeed, so far Kaspar has been a hit with kids and their parents. "Before, [my daughter] would make a smiley face no matter what emotion you asked her to show," says one parent, also quoted by the AP. "But now she is starting to put the right emotion with the right face. That's really nice to see." Watch Kaspar in action:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The 11 worst fast food restaurants in America
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
- Why Peter Capaldi has a bigger challenge than any Doctor Who in history
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- The weird obsession that's ruining the GOP
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Why are so many parents being arrested?
- 10 things you need to know today: July 23, 2014
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
Subscribe to the Week