While I was reading this article, I was thinking how good this robot would be for helping autistic children learn to interact, then the idea was proposed at the end. Apparently, that's what this technology is most likely to be used for.
It would be very nice to be able to use a robot to teach your child how to interact outside of a social setting. When Josie was younger and having a lot more trouble with aggression and empathy, I sure hated the idea of using other people's children to teach her how to interact. The only problem with the robot is that it has no facial expressions. That would make him extra scary to me, but probably more helpful to the autistic community.
Josie has come a long way in this area, especially towards younger children. She has a good instinct about them, and takes very good care and is protective of little ones. They like her too. She doesn't talk down to them. She tried to teach a three year old how to play chess the other night. She didn't expect Lola to know how to play, and just rolled with whatever Lola wanted to do.
Older kids are harder to read. They may be smiling at you when they are bullying you and she thinks they are being nice. Or they won't tell you when they are angry. She can't read that either. Toddlers cry when they are sad, laugh when they are happy, throw a tantrum when they are angry. Josie gets that and has a great amount of confidence with babies and small kids.
Older kids often can't pick out what is not normal about Josie. She works very hard to entertain others, and usually just comes off as a very silly girl. But they do think there's something a bit "off" there. Little ones just take her as she is. Many homeschooled kids are better at taking her at face value too. But as she gets older, that kind of acceptance by her peers happens less and less.
It's appropriate that this robot is a toddler, how do you program a robot to be sarcastic? How do you program a robot to lie to your face? What does a lying face look like? How do we know when someone is doing that?
I'm a neurotypical person, but I can't readily explain how I know the hidden language. It comes naturally to me. That's what makes me neurotypical. Teaching this hidden social curriculum the difficulty in raising a child with Asperger's syndrome. It's like teaching someone how to build a strong house with popsicle sticks and paperclips. You need to become a totally new kind of draftsman to find out how to make it happen with what you've been given.
I wonder how many neurotypical people who understand the hidden language are out there programming robots? These engineering fields seem to be highly populated with aspies. But perhaps it takes a more scientific knowledge of human behavior to program a robot to emulate a human personality, precisely the kind of textbook style knowledge people with asperger's syndrome need to use daily in dealing with social situations.