If you have seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you must be aware of the important role of the rolling robot BB-8. There is still a debate going on whether we will see robots like that in the future or not. However, one of the round rolling toy robots under development is Leka. It is specially designed for children who have learning disorders and autism, as it helps them engage in activities, without any kind of human interaction.
The children who suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorder have a hard time connecting with others, and cannot take into account various social cues. They have difficulties in communicating their thoughts, and they are involved in repetitive behaviors. In such circumstances, Leka plays the role of a robotic companion. This ball shaped robot uses expressions, lights, sounds, and colors to interact with the individuals. For example, the ball turns red when it is mistreated, which is a cue for the kids to help them understand its emotions. The user can indulge in games to enhance their motor, communication, emotional, and cognitive skills. It helps them form a link with their surroundings and the people in it.
Apps such as Color Bingo and Hide Go Seek can be downloaded so that the kids can play these games with the robot. You may say that these games can be downloaded on iPads as well. However, the iPad cannot use the whole body for interaction. Meanwhile, the educational activities present in Leka are timer-timer, night light, remote control, and alarm clock. The initial apps in Leka include Hide & Go Leka, Picture Bingo, and Traveling Leka. The level of difficulty is also customizable, which you can modify depending on the child’s mental level.
A Paris-based engineer, Ladislas de Toldi, made this interactive robot by closely associating with parents, teachers, and therapists of children with learning disabilities to know about their needs and discover different ways the robot could meet those needs. He noticed that robots have a positive impact on children on the autism spectrum, as well as those with other special needs.
While explaining the scope of the product, the CEO said, “We started with autism and did our first tests with children at school with Down Syndrome and other disabilities and discovered that the robot works with those children, as well.”
With the sensors present in it, the device provides data on the progress of the child and offers them a kind of therapy. However, de Toldi made himself clear that this robot is not a medical device and said, “We don’t like the term ‘therapy device,” he clarifies. “We are an educational tool.”
There are not many toys for kids with special needs as they have a hard time maintaining their focus. However, the CEO, Mr. de Toldi, said, “Children with disabilities are still children. They want to play, they want to have fun.”
Shipping of this product will take place in the beginning of 2017.