Monday, September 6, 2010

Robots as Autism Therapists? What Could Possibly Go Wrong...

My friend Kathy sent me a link to this post about Notre Dame researchers using robots for autism therapies.  I had heard about something similar to this a few months back, and I wrote a post at that time that is still one of my favorites.  I'm pretty sure that no one read it, so I'm going to take the opportunity to re-post it. 

Computer scientists at the University of Southern California are in the process of developing a robot named Bandit for therapeutic use with children who have autism.  I don't know how to feel about this. The theory is that robots would draw autistic kids into social interactions because they "respond more naturally to machines than they do to people". Well, yes, but that is sort of the problem...and the reason that we are bankrupting ourselves paying for therapy with humans. Unless the plot of every science-fiction-action movie comes true and the planet is taken over by a superior race of androids, Audrey is going to have to learn to interact with and relate to human beings.

One of the stated goals of the project is for these robots to eventually sell for the price of a laptop, and while that would admittedly solve our financial problems, I'm not sure that I would be comfortable with a team of robots replacing my ABA therapists. Unless they could also be programmed to scrub my moldy shower grout and give me a pedi, I'm not sure it's worth it. The upkeep alone would probably quickly offset any benefits. Just who are you going to call when they go haywire and start dry humping the dishwasher? The Geek Squad?

But I do have to admit that as robots go, Bandit is pretty cute...

Bandit shows his school spirit
and enjoys a refreshing beverage.

Uh oh. Bandit MAD.

Bandit feel better now.
Bandit want hug.

Audrey 20 years from now laughing
 a little too hard at her date's joke.


  1. Fight On, Bandit!! Love that school spirit.
    Will Bandit ask if she has to go potty every 25 minutes? Is he familiar with the gfcf diet? Trying to figure out how long I can leave town with Bandit in charge...

  2. While Bandit looks awfully cute in the sweatshirt, its face is a little creepy to me. I wonder if the hugging hurts because of the machinery arms...

  3. "Bandit Mad" scares the s**t out of me! Also, this is the first blog post I ever read that refers to robot-on-kitchen appliance sex. That's why I keep coming back. Btw, is it still considered dryhumping if you spray Bandit with WD-40 during the act? Either way, that pervert is not going near my kids.

  4. Dani: I think you can trust a fellow Trojan. Can you get me an alumni discount on one of these babies?

    Laura: Yeah, given that alot of autistic kids can't even handle a tag in their shirts, I'm not sure that they'd be snuggling up to Bandit.

    Big Daddy: Bandit very hurt that you called him a name. Bandit is hacking your computer right now and finding your address. Bandit will find you.

  5. Oh yuck. Gonna have nightmares about Bandit now. thanks.

  6. I'm going to let a robot run my daughter's ABA sessions. Am I the only one slightly offended by this?

    Funny post, as usual, Lynn!

  7. I still haven't learned my lesson-I should not drink coffee while reading posts..makes it come out my nose..
    This would freak my kids out at first...then they would want to figure out how it worked and take it apart and then would freak out even more because they couldn't put it back they would insist that I try and fix it..I wouldn't be able little piles of robot would be spread around my house just waiting for me to step on them in the middle of the night in bare feet-much like Legos.
    No, I see only evil coming out of this..Forget humping the its quest to dominate humanity it would be humping my leg..kind of like the movie "Demonseed"

  8. A horny robot could be a real menace, after all, there's the vacuum cleaner, the trash compacter, the refrigerator, the air conditioner----but multiple opportunities for that birds and the bees talk! Just stopped by from SITS! Glad I a good chuckle. Hope you will return the visit.

  9. Eww, Bandit ugly. Banit scary looking, has no hair or legs.

    I have a "My Pal II" that Audrey could borrow. Or Teddy Ruxpin? Alot friendlier looking and doesn't cost an arm or a leg which seems to have happened when they created BANDIT.

    Sorry, not feeling it. I wouldn't want my child interacting with a robotic therapist. Human contact is more important.

  10. This post brought me back here -

    Pondering on the why an inanimate face prompts more response from some people.

  11. I'm pretty sure that one of my kids would see this, and immediately cover here ears and fold her body in half. The other one would find it halarious!
    Ya gotta love autism researchers though, thinkin WAAAY outside the box!
    Keep it up guys! Next hypothesis for you: My coffee maker will reduce unusual behavioral responses to sensory experiences. Go.

  12. What? Oh I hope it was April 1st when you originally posted this. This can't be true. This is not natural and somebody's gonna burn in hell for it I'm thinking.

  13. Wow, I had never heard of that. It does seem counterproductive like you said and quite frankly Badit looks a little scary. Is this really true? If so, I'm a little embarassed to say I went to USC...what are they thinking?

  14. Maybe if Bandit can hump dishwashers, he could be taught to turn tricks, and that would actually help our family PAY for ABA :-)

    Seriously, I'm thinking that a robot who could hold down a job would be a lot more useful and effective than a robot therapist. I'm sure he could get a paper route. Or answer the help line at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

  15. they have that at Carnegie mellon U. which is near us and they have had some news stories on tv about it

  16. Yep, I'm going with Aimee's comment. I've got two with bipolar, which shares some aspects of the autism spectrum delays and challenges, and has some of it's own. This is pretty funny stuff. My more aggressive daughter would kick this thing and the other one would find the off switch...
    Glad to find and follow you!


  17. Confession Time: I am a robot. I was hired by this Autistic kid's mom to pretend to be his mom. Look at this, I am even blogging while he is at school. See? Nothing to worry about Lynn. They assimilate just fine.

    In that last picture Bandit's arms are pretty jacked! Has he been lifting? How much can he press?

    And Dani G, I am laughing my ass off at your comment!

  18. um, this may be the dumbest idea in the history of mankind. Thousands of $$$ spent on therapy so kids aren't ROTE in speech and otherwise. bandit is scary as hell btw. My son would kick him in the robot groin.

  19. Thanks for the laugh - I needed that!