By imitating human joint movement in its shoulders, arms, hands and head, Cosmobot motivates children to develop new skills more quickly than is typical with traditional therapy. Supported in part by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research Program, scientists developed the assistive social robot primarily to work with children ages 5-12, including those with autism and cerebral palsy. But why does this work? Why do children respond so favorably to educational programs taught by technology? And when the technology is a robot made from inanimate materials, how do children learn to distinguish between the robot and a living thing? The answer, it turns out, may have far-reaching implications for interaction with “social” robots for both children and adults.
Working with a group of 18-month-old toddlers and a metallic robot, a team of scientists from the University of Washington (UW) recently determined that it is not only what something looks like, but how it moves and interacts with others that give even inanimate objects social significance. In fact, they say these characteristics give lifeless objects meaning to all humans regardless of age.