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Friday, June 29, 2012

'Popchilla' Robot Could Help Autistic Kids

Teaching children with autism spectrum disorders how to interact with others can be hard –- usually one learns that with other people, but it's difficult to quantify.

Seema Patel, CEO of Interbots, thinks she has a solution. It's a toy stuffed animal called Popchilla that is connected to an app called Popchilla's World that runs from a mobile device. The toy, a small robot stuffed animal (it looks like a chinchilla) moves and shows facial expressions. The app is a game that rewards children when they get the right answer as to what feeling the robot is showing. 

Popchilla's World, for instance, walks a child through the process of brushing teeth (using the touch screen). The stuffed animal -– a "digital puppet" -- that goes with it will have expressions that show it is happy or unhappy. Patel told Discovery News the idea is to get children with autism spectrum disorders to move from practicing on a touch screen to interacting with people in the real world.