Scientists Created Robotic System to Help Deaf Children Communicate
Researchers at Gallaudet University, collaborated with Yale, the University of Southern California, and Italy’s University of D’Annunzio to develop a robot to stimulate the natural interaction between infants and parents.
It is interesting to know that the area of the brain stimulated in an infant’s mind is the same whether communicated via verbal or signed language.
“The same neural sensitivities, they are processed in the identical swatches of brain tissue. The brain tissue that we used to think was only responsible for sound is not the unique bastion of sound processing. It’s the unique bastion of human language processing.” said Laura-Ann Petitto, Gallaudet neuroscientist
The team created a robot-avatar system, which uses a subtle method to read the infant. A thermal camera focusing on the baby’s face tracks changes in temperature associated with heightened awareness. The face-tracking software helps determine when the robot is able to direct the kid’s gaze to the avatar, as well as when the kid is actually engaged. Infants are seen to love it, and hearing children also will try to sign back to the avatar.
“We actually want families, caregivers to be reading to their children, speaking to their children, signing. We want that social interaction because it’s within that context that you learn speech and language or signing skills,” said Diane Paul, director of clinical issues in speech-language pathology at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Without enough of that kind of interaction, a child’s brain doesn’t develop as it should. This system serves as a means for babies to develop well even though their parents are not available for interaction.
The current development of a little mohawked robot catching the eye of kids is not a substitute for interpersonal communication between parents and infants, as much as it is an experimental supplement. This system, however, shows potential of evolving into a sophisticated robot babysitter with sophisticated emotions and interactions.
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