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DE-Enigma at Tallinn Digital Summit 2017

The project DE-Enigma aims to empower autistic children through playful interaction with a humanoid robot. At the Tallinn Digital Summit 2017, the project will present their first humanoid robot prototype called Zeno.

A kid talking to a humanoid robot

What is DE-Enigma about?

There are over 5 million people living with autism in the European Union. If you include their families, autism touches the lives of over 20 million Europeans. While having problems understanding and communicating with others, people with autism often have intact and sometimes even superior cognitive abilities to comprehend predictable systems, such as robots. Children with autism perceive a humanoid robot as being less complicated, less threatening, and more comfortable to communicate with than humans. Developing such a robot is the aim of the EC funded (EUR 3.9 million) project DE-Enigma.

What is the goal of the project?

The project aims to revolutionise autism therapy by offering adaptive robot-mediated learning. By designing a robot that will be able to process children’s motions, vocalisations, and facial expressions, the robot will be able to adapt autonomously and engage and play with the child.  Ultimately, the robot will teach autistic children socio-emotional skills by recognising and displaying appropriate emotions and social behaviours.

What has been achieved so far?

Since February 2016, DE-Enigma has developed and created a first humanoid robot prototype, called Zeno. A group of 138 children were involved in therapeutic sessions using Zeno. Half the group interacted with Zeno, the other half underwent traditional therapies without the robot.  Results showed that those children who participated in sessions with Zeno improved their socio-emotional skills. Zeno helped the children to develop relationships with non-familiar people and develop empathy and the ability and desire to help others. Early therapeutic sessions were also used to improve Zeno's facial tracking feature, its voice/emotion recognition system which helps the robot to detect the child changing behaviour in real-time.

What is to be seen in Tallinn?

The visitors will be able to see and play with Zeno. That way, they will understand how interacting with a robot can change autistic children's lives. To answer questions and explain how robot technology can radically improve autism therapy and education, seven members of the project, including the project coordinator Prof. Dr. Vanessa Evers and Suncica Petrovic from the Serbian Society of Autism, will be present in Tallinn.