01314514162 socoro-info SoCoRo

In the UK, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects 547,000 people over the age of 18 (1.3% of working age adults) according to the 2011 census. These adults encounter serious difficulties in their everyday life, particularly in securing and maintaining employment. The unemployment rate among adults with ASD is higher than 85%, nearly double the unemployment rate of 48% for the wider disabled population and compares to an overall UK unemployment rate of 5.5%. 

One reason for this is that people with an ASD struggle to correctly interpret social signals, those expressive behavioural cues through which people manifest what they feel or think (facial expressions, vocalisations, gestures, posture etc.). This leads to difficulties in correctly interpreting interactions with co-workers and supervisors. 

Behavioural Skills Training (BST) is recognized as one of the most effective training approaches for the effects of an ASD. BST is a behaviourist training approach involving phases of instruction, modelling, rehearsal, and feedback in order to teach a new skill. It has been used to teach social skills to people both with and without disabilities. However, BST is too labour-intensive to be widely applied. If robots could be used to help deliver BST, this could reduce the effort required by human trainers and lower the cost of BST application. 

In the SoCoRo project, work is being carried out to design such a training system. We will design a modular Affective Architecture using ROS, the Robot Operating System, that is able to generate dynamic expressive behaviours of varying levels of drama/subtlety and recognise social signals from its interaction partner. We will design training scenarios related to common office activities and work with our partners, Autism Initiatives, in Edinburgh, to evaluate the usefulness of the training system for our target population.