Leka is a robot designed specially for children with autism to help them learn social, cognitive, and motor skills.
People with autism struggle to handle a variety of stimuli all being thrown at them at once, and without an upbringing that introduces them to each stimulus to help them adjust to it, life can seem pretty hectic and daunting to them.
That’s why the designers of Leka set out to create this multi-sensory smart toy to help autistic children with their social, cognitive, motor, and emotional skills.
According to papers published in peer-reviewed journals, the toy was developed with the help of parents, therapists, and caregivers for autistic children. Since these people know what does and doesn’t work for their children, whose abilities are also varied, the designers were better able to adapt the toy to work best for consumers.
Throughout the research period for Leka’s designers, they found that children with autism respond particularly well to working with robots. One reason is the repetition of reactions that Leka has. Ladislas de Toldi, the CEO and co-founder of Leka, told Live Science,
“To see progress, they are required to do the same thing for a long time. Always doing the same thing can be hard for a parent or caregiver — but Leka will do the same thing every single time.”
So what does Leka do? On the surface it provides fun and educational games for the kids, but it does so much more by sensing the interaction it’s having with the child and reacting accordingly to help the child learn social cues and develop autonomy.
For example, if Leka is mistreated and thrown to the ground in frustration or anger, it gets sad, which can be seen on its screen because it has different faces, and turns red because that color is typically associated with sadness.
In response, the child will learn that this behavior of throwing toys and mistreating others is not acceptable and can result in sadness or being hurt. The responses are all pre-programmed and predictable so that the child can get used to the reactions and feel safe in knowing how their actions will affect others.
Each child has a unique set of responses to different stimuli, so Leka is programmable to add or take away any of its features, including music, lights, and speed. As the child progresses, parents or caregivers can adjust the volume, brightness, and movement to push the child’s learning even further.
The games also act as autonomous instructional guides to aid the child in everyday tasks, such as brushing their teeth. Future applications will be available that allow for multiplayer use to further engage the child.
Parents can monitor their child’s progress on an app that is associated with Leka and the toy is meant to complement current therapy and encourage family interaction.
The product has already been backed by 150% and preorders are set to be delivered starting in 2017. For more information about how Leka works and how you can order one once they’re available, visit the Indiegogo page.
Watch the video below to see how Leka works and how it can help families with autistic family members.
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