PlusMe: Transitional Wearable Companions for the therapy with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Fact Sheet
+me is an experimental soft interactive toy with a panda form designed in collaboration with developmental therapists. Thanks to embedded electronics, +me can emit attractive responses as colored lights and amusing sounds when touched on paws. The device is connected to a control tablet to allow an adult caregiver to modify the input-output contingencies, so as to produce several rewarding response patterns according to child’s reaction.
These features make +me a potential support tool for therapy of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): the attractiveness and the functional versatility of the device could be exploited during play activities with a therapist to capture the interest of children, to encourage their social interactions, then reinforcing pivotal social skills as imitation, eye-contact, turn-taking. +me is currently in experimental phase, in pilot tests on children (24-48 months) with ASD and Typical Development (TD).
The experiments are conducted in collaboration with the Sec. of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry -Univ. of Rome “Sapienza”- whose researchers showed great interest to technological aid for therapy. +me is an indirect -yet really promising- outcome of the ongoing FET project “Goal-based Open-ended Autonomous Learning Robots, GOAL-Robots” (Grant Agreement No. 713010).
The main goal of the proposal is to develop the +me from the current experimental prototype towards a “ready-for-market” product, certified for safe use in EU. The proposal aims to 1) engineer the prototype, through a third party company expert in electronic manufacturing, in order to realise a small-scale production of 10/20 working +me samples; 2) at the same time, continue the experimentation on TD and ASD children, to strengthen the scientific aspects of the device; 3) disclose the obtained results through scientific publications and participation to promotional events market-oriented, in forecast of a next possible commercialisation.