Scottish Daily Mail

Robot will help autistic adults cope with work

- 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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