Recent evidence has shown that children with autism may behave more pro-socially when interacting with a robot than with a human. The objective of this research is to develop a robotic system for use in the clinical treatment of children with autism. The governing assumption behind this thesis is that using a robot in a clinic, under the guidance of a trained therapist, may lead to therapeutic benefits that may not be achieved without the presence of the robot. The robot Troy was developed to fulfill such a role in a clinical setting. The primary objective was to design a robot that would be engaging to the children. Secondary objectives included making it versatile, easy to use, and affordable enough for wide-spread use. To facilitate engaging activities for the children, the robot needed to be able to express facial emotions as well as have arms that can move similar to humans. The resulting design is an upper-body humanoid robot with two four-degree-of-freedom arms and a two-degree-of-freedom neck. The face is generated by a small computer monitor mounted on the neck. Troy is connected to a user interface so that its actions can be sequenced and controlled by a clinician during a therapy session. Although the long-term clinical benefits of using robots like Troy must ultimately be determined by experienced therapists, preliminary clinical trials suggest that Troy is an engaging tool that helps the children become more interactive during therapy sessions. Therapists note that children are intrigued by Troy, and while Troy is present the children have been observed to interact more with the therapists in the room. This gives us further hope that robot-assisted autism therapy will help these children generalize what they learn in the clinic to other aspects of their life.
College and Department
Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Ricks, Daniel J., "Design and Evaluation of a Humanoid Robot for Autism Therapy" (2010). Theses and Dissertations. 2088.
Daniel Ricks, robotics, design, autism, therapy