Ro­bot will help autis­tic adults cope with work

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Bart Dick­son

SCOTS sci­en­tists have de­vel­oped a ro­bot they hope will help boost em­ploy­ment chances for autism suf­fer­ers.

A team at Ed­in­burgh’s He­ri­otWatt Uni­ver­sity de­vel­oped the ro­bot, called Alyx, that teaches peo­ple to recog­nise so­cial cues.

The ma­chine uses ap­prov­ing or dis­ap­prov­ing fa­cial sig­nals – the two most used ex­pres­sions in the work­place.

This helps adults with autism deal with so­cial sig­nals in work­place sit­u­a­tions and could im­prove their job prospects.

Alyx will in­ter­act with hu­mans and re­spond to sce­nar­ios that could arise in the work­place. Re­searchers hope it will con­trib­ute to re­duc­ing un­em­ploy­ment among autis­tic adults.

The UK has an un­em­ploy­ment rate of 4.4 per cent but only 14

‘Hold back those with autism’

per cent of autis­tic adults are in full-time em­ploy­ment.

Dr Pe­ter McKenna, re­search as­so­ci­ate at He­riot-Watt said: ‘Our anal­y­sis shows there are cer­tain fa­cial ex­pres­sions Alyx pro­duces that are read sim­i­larly to a hu­man face.

‘At present, im­paired so­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­ter­ac­tion hold back the work­ing po­ten­tial of those with autism.

‘How­ever, ro­bots like Alyx can help change this out­come by of­fer­ing ad­di­tional as­sis­tance and knowl­edge of so­cial skills, cre­at­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties for ev­ery­one.’

The re­search was con­ducted as part of the So­cially Com­pe­tent Ro­bots project, which aims to de­velop ro­bot-train­ing for adults with autism, to im­prove their so­cial and work-re­lated skills.

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