Kaspar Robot: Help Autistic Children
At first glance, it may sound like too much of a challenge to kids and a few adults who shudder when they see it, some even likening it to the doll Chucky of horror flick Child’s Play, but autistic children love him. Since his artificial birth at the University of Hertfordshire in 2005, this petite friendly robot has entered schools and a nursery to educate autistic children in the subtle art of human interaction. With eyes, a nose, mouth, arms and legs, KASPAR is the size of a small child but with no specific age or gender and a neutral expression, children are given the chance to interpret KASPAR however they like. KASPAR’s ‘human’ features are rudimentary, to prevent too much realism scaring away an autistic child. His simplistic appearance and movement, electronic-sounding voice, rubber skin with slightly exposed metal parts, are deliberate artifices designed to entice and delight a child who cannot cope with complex facial expressions and ‘normal’ social interactions. He whirrs when his arm moves, thanks to overtly noisy motors which reassure children that he is a mechanical toy that is ‘just human enough’ to respond and play games with them. Why, you may wonder, describe KASPAR as ‘he’ at all? With checked shirt and trousers Kaspar is dressed as a boy at the Stevenage-based early years centre TRACKS Autism, to reflect the fact that four times as many boys as girls are likely to be diagnosed with autism.
- Country: England
- Company: University of Hertfordshire