Macedonia University develops 'social robot' designed to support autistic children

Social robot Macedonia University Nikos Fahantidis

A "cuddly" robot that uses Artificial Intelligence and has a "face" framed by soft and pillow-like petals has been developed by a lab at Macedonia University in northern Greece to provide support to autistic children.

Answering to the name Margarita (or Daisy in English and made in pastel shades of sky blue and purple, the robot's face can be smiling or serious, depending on the emotions it intends to convey. It was developed in the Lires Laboratory of the university's education and social policy department.

It can also converse and move its petals and is designed to assist teachers, therapists and doctors approach a child with autism and helping it develop social skills.

"It is a tool for professionals. The interaction is simpler and [they] can use Margarita as a "bridge" in order to complete an educational programme, an assessment or make a diagnosis," the head of the Lires lab, Prof. Nikos Fahantidis, told the AMNA radio station.

He said that studies have shown that Margarita can help children learn to interpret emotional cues, with improved social skills that persisted for some time after the intervention.

The robot debuted at this year's Beyond 2023 exhibition at TIF-Helexpo. It resulted from a collaboration initiated in 2017 between Macedonia University and the Lires Laboratory with the companies Cactus SA and Revival Consulting Services SA.

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