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Timothy Gifford and Anjana Bhat on Using Robots to Help Autistic Children

Timothy Gifford and Anjana Bhat
Movia Robotics CEO and University of Connecticut Assistant Professor of Kinesiology, Movia Robotics and UCONN
Hartford and Storrs, Connecticut

Movia Robotics CEO Gifford, 48, and Bhat, 34, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut, use robots to help autistic children develop social and physical skills.

Gifford: "Because the robots are simpler than people, they're more accessible. The children feel as if the situation is safer, so they're able to explore more and have a greater feeling of control."

GBhat: "Robots address some of the deficits we know are present in children with autism, especially coordination and social problems. Compared to an adult, the robot is very systematic in its interactions, and that's less daunting for a child with autism. What's more, it's fun for a child to play with a robot."

Gifford: "We're continuing to add more complex behaviors, such as having the robot play music so the kids feel as if they're playing in a band with the robot. But it's important to note that these are treatment and learning tools — we're not making any claims about robots being a cure."

A version of this article appeared in the April 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.