WATCH: Robot Tommy will accompany children on the autism spectrum at school
The University’s Literacy Centre will have three social robots aimed at assisting in the learning of children on the autism spectrum. Social robots do not replace teachers but will serve as children companions and assist them in language, interaction and communication development. The purchase of this robotic system has the support of the Aġenzija Residenza Malta, which allocated funds for the necessary research and development.
“Good morning everybody, I am Tommy and I am a social robot”
Tommy the robot will accompany children aged between 7 and 10, especially those on the autism spectrum, during their education.
The University’s Literacy Centre director, Prof. Charles Mifsud, said that international research shows that social robots are effectively used with children who have difficulty in learning. He stressed that its aim will not be to substitute teachers or parents.
“Tommy has patience and enjoys playing with children, it is trained to wait and with his creativity he motivates children to show interest in learning and therefore permits our educational programmes to be more effective”.
Professor Mifsud said the pilot project will start with small groups of children at the Literacy Centre in an informal environment and eventually is introduced in class. The two-year project is aimed to study different aspects of how an individual and robots integrate with each other.
The project is financed by Aġenzija Residenza Malta which allocated €85,000 for its research and development, with the purchasing of three robots, similar to Tommy.
Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship and Communities, Alex Muscat, said that with the project, Residenza Malta is investing in the latest technology so that children on the autism spectrum are encouraged to learn more.
Residenza Malta chief executive, Charles Mizzi, remarked that this projects complements the agency’s values.