x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Meet Zeno, the robot that’s helping autistic children

Zeno, a humanoid robot, helps autistic children learn social skills - this robot can use facial expressions and body movements and can speak more than 26 languages.

Several types of robots are already being commercialised worldwide, when such technology was only fiction just a few years ago. Duncan Chard for The National
Several types of robots are already being commercialised worldwide, when such technology was only fiction just a few years ago. Duncan Chard for The National

DUBAI // The robotics industry is gaining ground in the UAE – particularly in education and health, experts say.

“We are bringing a lot of robots to the UAE,” said Dr Claus Risager, founder of Blue Ocean Robotics. “People that we meet from the UAE seem very open, very motivated for being the early adopters that would like to take the lead on using robots.”

Several types of robots are already being commercialised worldwide, when such technology was only fiction just a few years ago, he said before the region’s first Robot Technology Exhibition at the Meydan in Dubai on Monday.

An example are the various types of tele-medicine or tele-education robots. These are computer controlled robots, which allow a person far away physically to communicate. The robot is also able to move around.

Dr Risager explained that a doctor can help patients through these robots, or a child could attend school if they are not physically capable. There are 20 kinds, with one for every need, he said.

A wide variety of robots cater to the needs of autistic children. “We’ve been using robots for sometime where the teacher has a new role,” Dr Risagar said.

“The teacher controls the robots and the robots are then running the training sessions.”

The cueball, a smart rolling ball, uses lights and sound effects to interact with children. In addition, it incorporates physical activity. The ball is able to react to touch.

Furthermore, Zeno, a humanoid robot, helps autistic children learn social skills. Unlike the cueball, this robot can use facial expressions and body movements. It can also speak more than 26 languages.

“The real strength to this is that children are much more connected to robots,” he added.

Robots are also being used in other activities. The shopping robot, Budgee, Dr Risagar said, is becoming increasingly popular. It can carry up to 23 kilograms, while it is merely nine kilograms and is easy to lift and transport.

Alongside the conference, the fourth University of Wollongong in Dubai Robotics Competition took place. More than 80 schools took part, with the chance for high school pupils to win a full scholarship to the university.

nbakhsh@thenational.ae