7/16/09

Keepon Assists Autism Research


Keepon is only five inches tall and has no arms or legs. Yet his simple figure doesn’t keep him from dancing – with the help of Marek Michalowski, that is.

Michalowski, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute working at a robotics lab in Japan, was told to “do something” with the little yellow robot. So he turned on the music and put the little guy to a good cause.

Keepon’s dance-oriented play is helping children with autism and other development disorders.

How?

Michalowski studies how children interact socially through Keepon’s “eyes” (a camera) and “ears” (a microphone). When a child approaches Keepon and interacts with him, Keepon is able to respond to the child with lifelike movements. His range of motion includes turning side to side, rocking side to side, nodding front to back, and bobbing up and down. All while researchers and parents are watching and listening to the child behind the scenes.

Since 2003, Keepon has been used to study behaviors such as eye contact, joint attention, touching, emotion and imitation in children of different ages and levels of social development.

Michalowski is the co-founder of BeatBots LLC, a company dedicated to the development of “robotic characters that defy entrenched notions of robots as impersonal mechanical tools.”

For more of Keepon’s moves, check out “Keepon Auditioning” or “Keepon: Friend or Foe” on YouTube or watch Keepon and Michalowski on the Today Show.

No comments: