QTRobot - autistic children's friend
The start-up LuxAI has developed a humanoid robot to improve the sociability of autistic children. QT acts as an interaction facilitator between therapists and young patients.
One person out of 150 is diagnosed with autism in Luxembourg. And according to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, approximately 1 child out of 59 worldwide suffers from an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Children with autism have difficulties communicating, as well as understanding what others think and feel. As a result, it is difficult for them to express themselves through words, body language, facial expressions and touch, to such an extent that it may seem that they are disconnected from the outside world. It is very challenging for therapists to help them get out of their bubble. They use their therapist robot assistant - QT - to help them create a link with the outside world.
QT is specialised in interactions with autistic children and facilitates their integration in society.
According to LuxAI, users without specific technological skills could easily program the QTRobot and adapt it to their needs.
Welcoming the QT Robot
Only a handful of social robots exist in the world at this point in time. The QT Robot is one of them. This small large-headed humanoid robot measuring around 20 inches tall wears a cosmonaut suit and has everything going for it to catch children's attention. In fact, QT - as in "Cutie" - is a therapeutic robot capable of showing emotions aimed at children with behavioural disorders.
QT was developed, assembled and programmed on the premises of the start-up LuxAI, and is 100% made in Luxembourg. Used in therapy centres in France and Luxembourg, it is specialised in interactions with autistic children and facilitates their integration in society. In real terms, it communicates in a simpler way than human beings. It makes it easier for autistic children to understand. But it also plays educational games with them and tells them stories.
This fun approach helps children acquire new emotions and skills such as social and communication skills. It can even add the corresponding body language. Its LCD face and robotised arms clearly show when it is ashamed or finds something repulsive, for example. It warmly praises the child after each successful activity.
The robot plays the role of mediator
During the sessions, the humanoid robot acts as a mediator between two people, in particular the therapist and a child suffering from an autistic spectrum disorder. By doing so, QT makes it easier for therapists to communicate a message to children, using an application on a tablet.
According to experiments, this triangular interaction between the robot, the therapist and the patient has proved to be very efficient to improve learning opportunities for children as well as communication with the therapist. Research even shows that children diagnosed with autism are highly interested in technology and prefer interactive robots to traditional toys.
But QT is much more than that. Based on AI technology, this little android is fully autonomous. Its energy is limitless and repeats activities as many times as children want. It is also easy to program and can create new games all by itself. According to its inventors, users without specific technological skills could easily program the QTRobot and adapt it to their needs.
QT was developed, assembled and programmed on the premises of the start-up LuxAI, and is 100% made in Luxembourg.
Ready, steady...: LuxAI's portfolio includes clients from the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, China and the Middle East.
The young Luxembourg based start-up, LuxAI, is a spin-off of the University of Luxembourg, and is currently "incubated" in the Lux Future Lab. This lab is mostly home to start-ups in FinTech or HealTech, such as LuxAI, which was founded by two Iranians - doctors Pouyan Ziafati and Aida Nazarikhorram. The first doctor is a specialist in robotics and AI who graduated from the universities of Luxembourg and Utrecht; the second is a doctor who was trained at the university of Hamadan (Iran).
3 questions to Dr. Aida Nazarikhorram, co-founder of LuxAI
1. For what purpose did you develop this robot?
The vision of LuxAI is building a future with Human-Centered Artificially Intelligent systems supporting the therapy, well-being and independence living of humans, especially vulnerable people such as children with developmental disorders and the elderly. QTrobot was developed with the mission of providing support for health and education professionals, to deliver a high-quality, scalable and affordable service to children with special needs and autism.
2. What is the resonance of the QTrobot with its beneficiaries?
Even though QTrobot is a relatively new product in the market, it has already attracted global attention and interest. Now there are many centres for training of children with autism as well as many research groups who are using QTrobot across the world in North America, Asia, Australia and of course Europe. Our customers are very satisfied, since they see a huge impact from using QT in their day to day work. They find the robot very easy to use and easy to customize based on their special needs. That’s why now a days, we receive many orders based on the recommendation of our customers.
3. Could social humanoid robots be the next societal revolution?
Social robots have a great potential to support humans in many domains of applications. In particular there is huge shortage of specialized care givers and health professionals, that cause a lot of challenges and frustration. Social robots such as QTrobot, by mass replicating standard training practices, can be a great source of support for scaling the service delivery in a high quality and social manner.