Social Robots and Human Social Development

February 14, 2008
2:50 pm - 4:00 pm
Halligan 111


Social robots recognize and respond to human social cues with appropriate behaviors. These robots are unique tools in the study of human social development, and have the potential to play a critical role in the diagnosis and treatment of social disorders such as autism. In the first part of this talk, I present four examples of what building social robots has taught us about human social development. These examples cover topics of perceptual development (vocal prosody), sensorimotor development (declarative and imperative pointing), linguistic development (learning pronouns), and cognitive development (self-other discrimination). The second half will focus on the application of social robots to the diagnosis and therapy of autism. Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that is characterized by social and communicative impairments. Based on five years of integration and immersion with a clinical research group which performs more than 130 diagnostic evaluations of children for autism per year, I will discuss how social robots will impact the ways in which we diagnose, treat, and understand autism.