Pepper, The social robot developed by Softbank Robotics, assists young pupils at Mendip School in Somerset. It helps students diagnosed with an Autism spectrum disorder to regulate their emotions and wellbeing. According to WHO, one in 160 children has an Autism spectrum disorder(ASD). Autism Spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that can cause challenges in social and communication skills.
Softbank Robotics Corp is a Tokyo-based company that excels in the manufacturing of Friendly and Interactive robots, which has the vision to serve Humanity with the help of robotics. Pepper is a 120cm ft. tall social humanoid robot designed for human interaction. It has perception modules in it to perceive the environment and start a conversation with a person. Pepper also has a tablet in its chest to illustrate the content of messages and aid the speech. It also uses its voice to start a conversation.
Pepper, programmed by Bristol Robotics Laboratory, is currently helping 12-19-year-old autistic pupils in a special needs school called Mendip in the UK.As a project conducted by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) researchers for three weeks. Pepper focuses more on the emotions and wellbeing of the pupils and supports them in their learning process. This social humanoid first displays certain emotions in the tablet to recognize the mood of the pupil and provide suggestions based on their feelings. Pepper can tell a joke, play music, tai-chi techniques to destress the pupil. It can even offer warm cuddles. After introducing the pepper in Mendip, social interaction seems to increase among the peers.
Mendip School’s assistant headteacher, Lian Conley, said: “It’s great to see students willing to communicate with the robot where they might struggle with adults and children, and to see them opening up their friendship groups.”
Pepper is also supporting the health sector by spreading information about the Covid-vaccination for recipients in Wyndham. It is programmed to receive people at the vaccination centers, ask questions and provide necessary Vaccine information to the recipients. It provides a positive experience to the patients by diminishing anxiety in their waiting time.
Though there are robots in the market to support autistic children, Pepper Robot focuses primarily on Emotions and interactions. It has speech recognition, and its dialogue is available in 15 languages. Social humanoids like pepper can be a good investment for schools to improve social skills among children.