Autism Light #441 is Milo, the Robot

Autism Light #441 is Milo, the Robot.

Milo is a humanoid social robot that was designed by RoboKind, a company in Dallas, Texas.  Milo has been programmed to integrate the curriculum of Robots4Autism into a therapy program for children with autism. Milo is the first robot to be named an Autism Light, because of how his social robot therapy can help children with autism to learn valuable social skills.

RoboKind was formed in 2011 and Milo is a descendent of the Zeno R25 robot they created in 2013. Christopher Everett Tracy describes the specs on Milo.

Milo stands at just under two feet, weights 4.5kg, and has the face of a young boy…. The oversized doll is nothing short of a technical marvel. His brain is an OMAP 4460 dual core 1.5 GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor and he has 1GB of RAM as well as 8GB of memory, which can be expanded via a MicroSD slot. He has a 5-megapixel autofocus camera in his right eye, as well as a battery of visual algorithims to detect colours, motion, faces, and QR codes. His CompuCompassion system gives Milo the ability to identify and respond to emotions. And of course he has Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity (Tharawat, Christopher Everett Tracy, November 6, 2015).

The following is a video of Milo’s background and how he works to help young people with autism learn.

The Robots4Autism curriculum currently can be used in elementary and middle school. “The objectives of robot therapy include learning to pick up emotions, express empathy, act more appropriately in social situations, self-motivate, and generalize in the population (RoboKind Website, Robots4Autism Curriculum).”

Dr. Pamela Rollins is the author of the Robots4Autism curriculum. In the following video Dr. Rollins describes the curriculum.

Dr. Pamela Rollins said, “We found that especially with the fluent children, they were engaged with Milo 87 percent of the time. We also looked at how much they were engaged with the therapist when she tried to talk to them. It was about 3 percent (KCCI.com, April 2, 2015).”

Milo has the potential to accomplish great things for autism and also reduce the cost of autism treatment. “Educating a child with autism can cost from $17,000 to $22,000 a year, according to the company. The cost for a Milo robot including the curriculum is $5,000. RoboKind’s representative said that some insurance companies have helped reimburse the cost (Medpage Today, Shannon Firth, March 9, 2015).”

Like any therapy Milo will not be effective with every single person on the autism spectrum. Dr. Rollins indicated that children that Milo seems to be the most effective in treating have picture symbol recognition, ability to answer yes/no questions, ability to understand cause and effect, and ability to use a table to communicate (Medpage Today, Shannon Firth, March 9, 2015).

Milo will last up to 3 years but is also designed with the capacity for an upgrade. At the time this post was written RoboKind is only selling Milo to institutions that will use it in concert with the Robots4Autism curriculum. Robokind has a web form that parents and caregivers can complete to refer Milo to their child’s school.

Milo is not intended to replace a human therapist but is an additional tool that can be used to facilitate more hours of instruction. One of the advantages that Milo has is he can endure unlimited repetitions without ever becoming frustrated in the middle of a therapy session or life lesson. The data and video that Milo can collect efficiently is also priceless to autism treatment plans.

Social Media: You can follow Milo on the following social media areas.

Special thanks to Milo for being an Autism Light. This breakthrough in technology is promising for autism therapy and it will be exciting as it is more widely adopted and becomes increasingly an affordable option for research based autism therapy with some children with autism. We look forward to hearing great things about Milo in the future.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

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Switched On, and Autistic Feeling

Switched On has gone on sale today, and people are already reading and talking about it. The book tells the story of my participation in experiments where Harvard neuroscientists used high-powered magnetic energy to “switch on” the ability to see emotions in other people. One effect of the experiments was a “stepping up” of emotional response in me.
Want to hear me talk about it in my own words? Listen to me describe it on NPR “Here and Now.”  Skip forward to minute 8 if you want to hear my thoughts on this.
One of the things that is happening now is that some non-autistic people are commenting on the book in ways that are hurtful to me, and probably other autistics. I don’t think they mean to be hurtful, but they are. If I may, I’d like to illustrate what I mean.
One reviewer wrote: “Imagine you are a robot. A smart robot. Now imagine scientists flip a switch, and you suddenly have feelings.” That is the premise of a Star Trek episode, folks, but it’s not the premise of Switched On.
In my book I talk about how someone said I looked like a talking robot in a video long ago, and how hurt I was by that comment. Then, after TMS, I felt I could understand why they said that, because my face was very fixed and rigid. But here’s the thing: understanding did not make it any less hurtful to hear. If you were called a freak all through your childhood, how do you think that would feel to hear as an adult?
In Switched On, I explain in several different ways that we autistics have deep and strong feelings. What’s different about us is that we may not express them in the expected ways, and we may not have typical responses to things that might trigger an emotional response in you.
That is not robot behavior. That is autistic behavior. Read my book for the scientific studies that explored that, why it can be beneficial, and what it means. 
I’m not going to give away the whole book in one blog post but I would like to say this: Switched On is a story of expanding my ability to engage other people by turning on my ability to read their unspoken social cues. It’s not a story of me going from “having no feelings” to “having feelings.” That was Mister Spock on TV.
Make of my book what you will, but keep in mind that I – and every other autistic person you are likely to meet – has the same ability as you to feel things. In fact, as you will read, our emotions often run deeper and longer than those of non autistics. So please be mindful of what you say. Words do hurt.
Turning on the ability to read other people is a remarkable achievement that strikes at a central feature of disability for many autistics. For many of us, the most painful thing we live with is social isolation. For too many of us, the pain is overwhelming, and we turn to suicide. Did you know the rate of suicide for bright autistic teens is over nine times that for the general population? So it’s no laughing matter.
The autism spectrum is very broad. Some autistics are pretty good readers of other people. Others (like me) are very poor indeed. That was what sparked my interest in the study. I saw a chance to maybe get past something that had caused me lots of pain and loneliness for 50 years. If you’d lived with that ache all your life, and saw a chance to escape it, would you take it?
Not every autistic person would want a therapy like this, should it become widely available. Not everyone wants TMS or other depression treatment. That is their right (to choose.) For others, it can be life changing or life saving.
Best wishes, and enjoy the story.
John Elder Robison
(c) 2007-2011 John Elder Robison

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