Humanoid Robots for Therapeutic Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Children

The Robotics and Automation Society’s Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (RAS-SIGHT) is the first Society-based SIGHT. The mission of RAS-SIGHT is the application of robotics and automation technologies for promoting humanitarian causes around the globe, and to leverage existing and emerging technologies for the benefit of humanity and towards increasing the quality of life in underserved, underdeveloped areas in collaboration with existing global communities and organizations. RAS-SIGHT funds projects that address the above mission and objectives. Since 2015, sixteen projects have been funded and some 10 projects will be funded in 2018.

A RAS-SIGHT project has been funded in which humanoid robots are used as therapeutic treatment for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Current clinical practice in the treatment of children with ASD calls for behavioural treatment in order to improve social, communication, and cognitive skills. Along with improving those skills, another goal is to reduce the risk of secondary symptoms such as aggressiveness and irritability. Current methods of therapy include use of animals such as dogs, horses, and dolphins, however, working with animals can be very complex.

There are several reasons why using robotics in therapeutic treatment is effective. The behavior patterns of robots are consistent and predictable making it less stressful for children with ASD to interact with them. This also helps with creating a controlled environment for the children to develop social and cognitive skills. Robots also have fewer stimuli so the children will not be as easily distracted. The robot can be used in conjunction with other devices such as phones and tablets, allowing a physical dimension of the real world.

The Robotic Intelligence Laboratory ( organized a multidisciplinary work group with two hospitals, through FISABIO (Foundation for the Promotion of Health and
Biomedical Research of Valencia), and signed a collaboration agreements with Manises Hospital ( and La Ribera Hospital ( both in Valencia, Spain. The aim was to develop a project to provide treatment to ASD children using NAO Robots.

The NAO robot is developed with an application specifically designed for assisted therapy for children with ASD. After being tested, the application is now open and free to use by associations, hospitals, and organization everywhere. No programming knowledge is required to use the application and maintenance is simple so therapists can employ the robot in therapy sessions with ease.

To read the full report on this project, click here.