For many autistic adults entering the workforce, it’s not the work that is challenging but the people they work with.People on the autism spectrum often have trouble recognizing their co-workers’ emotions, making it hard to create working relationships.
That’s where Alex comes in. Adults with autism tell us that they have real problems of getting employment and keeping employment and the main issue is not that they can’t do the work, it’s the workplace politics especially being able to understand what people really meanrather than simply what they say and part of that is understanding emotional expression so that’s why robots like Alex are going to help them.
Researchers at Heriot-Watt University gave Alex human emotions in their most basic universal form.Autistic adults then work with the robot on various tasks and learn to recognize common emotions.
What you’re trying to do is alter the environment through training through helping rather than changing the person which frankly hasn’t worked and 50 odd years of triedso the main focus is on using this as a therapeutic intervention if you like but it’s more environmental change.
The emotions are easily recognizable to most people. There’s joy, sadness, anger, fear and surprise.The researchers took this a step further by programming the robot to not only show emotion but to respond to the users behavior.
As well as training the robot to understand human beings, we’re actually creating a robot that can they respond in a human-like way and that’s what’s going to be the effective part of this skills training for adults with autism so they’re not just providing a sort of input,they’re actually experiencing the whole kind of behavior timeline, the input, the process and then the output.
Right now Alex is just a prototype.In its final form, it will be full bodied and autonomous like Casper, a similar robot that works with autistic children.
Bronwyn Benito, VOA News.