The “Lires Laboratory” of the Department of Educational and Social Policy of the University of Macedonia has developed a social robot to help autistic children.
The robot has been named Margarita, or Daisy in English. The robot is as soft as a pillow and has the appearance of a flower with a friendly face in the pastel colors of blue and purple.
The intended use of the robot is as a tool for therapists, doctors, and other professionals to help children on the autism spectrum learn social skills. Margarita is able to help children learn by mimicking facial expressions.
University of Macedonia develops robot to help children with autism
“It’s a tool for professionals. The interaction is easier and so the trainer or the therapist can use Margarita as a ‘bridge’ to carry out his training program, evaluation, or diagnosis program,” said Professor Nikos Fahandidis of the Department of Educational and Social Policy of the University of Macedonia and director of the Laboratory of Informatics and Robotics in Education and Society “LIRES”.
Professor Fahandidis explained that children can learn about emotions by observing the various expressions on Margarita’s “face,” and her unique design allows them to interact with her in different ways. They can embrace her like a cuddly toy or have her “sit” in a high chair, thanks to her special construction.
According to findings from special schools where Margarita has been trialed, the social skills of autistic children who interacted with the robot improved to a notable extent. The findings have been enthusiastically shared at conferences and in magazines.
Margarita also made an appearance at this year’s Beyond 2023 exhibition held at the TIF – Helexpo venue.
It was conceptualized as a result of the collaboration between the University of “Macedonia” and the “LIRES Laboratory,” in partnership with Cactus SA and Revival Consulting Services SA. This collaboration, which dates back to 2017, has fostered the development of Margarita.
Stavros Pantsios and Dimitris Angeloudis, the commercial director and managing director of Cactus SA, along with Giorgos Antipas, the president of Revival, expressed that each team member contributes from their unique perspective to provide technological solutions for the Greek market and society. Their collective efforts aim to offer valuable assistance and advancements in technology.
What is autism?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) definition, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain.”
“People with ASD often have problems with social communication and interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests.” This is one reason the robot designed at the University of Macedonia was designed to help autistic children develop their social skills from a young age
“People with ASD may also have different ways of learning, moving, or paying attention,” said the CDC.