Kaspar, the School of Computer Science’s robot at the forefront of android technology being developed to treat children with autism, featured in the BBC Two programme “Two Robots and Us” over the holiday period.
The heartwarming programme followed Kaspar as he was introduced to four-year old Ethan Doherty and his family, and Ethan’s progress over a six-week period.
Children with autism often find the human face’s many varied facial expressions confusing so Kaspar is specifically designed to encourage communication by displaying a restricted range of facial expressions. For the same reason he speaks slowly using limited vocabulary. Kaspar can also be programmed to meet the specific communication requirements of individual children and the programme showed Dr Ben Robins helping the Doherty family to program Kaspar.
As the documentary progressed, Ethan could be seen becoming more comfortable interacting with Kaspar and his communication skills with his family improved as a result. A breakthrough moment occurred when Ethan was able to answer his mother, Michelle, accurately when she asked how he had spent his day at school. The picture of the fish he said he had drawn is now framed and takes pride of place on the family dining room wall.
The episode featuring Kaspar aired on the 28 December 2017, and can be viewed on BBC iplayer. Kaspar was also featured in The Daily Mail and the family praised the effect Kaspar on improving Ethan’s ability to communicate with his parents.