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We first saw the Leka social robot at CES 2016, looking to join the movement of using robots to help children with learning disorders. Now Leka is hoping to take the next step in the production process by raising $60,000 on Indiegogo. At press time, the Leka social robot had raised $20,926 from 65 backers.
Leka has been co-developed with parents, therapists and caregivers to make therapy more accessible to children with autism, Down’s syndrome, or multiple disabilities. Leka’s goal is to help these children become more independent and improve their motor and social skills. To be clear, Leka isn’t designed to replace a therapist, it’s an additional tool for parents and caregivers.
Indiegogo backers can pre-order the Leka social robot for $490, and there’s a limited number available at $390. Outside of the Indiegogo campaign, Leka will cost $690. This seems a bit pricey compared to some other available options, but Leka’s ability to move around and get children physically moving will make it a more attractive tool.
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Through a mobile app (both iOS and Android), the Leka social robot is controlled via Bluetooth. Once paired, users can control Leka through two separate modes: manually control Leka’s movements and actions or access autonomous applications.
Leka is equipped with sensors to respond to a child’s interaction. For example, if Leka is mistreated, it turns red, a color traditionally associated with sadness. Interactive responses like this aim to help children better understand social cues and improve their social skills.
Leka Social Robot Play Educational Games
When Leka ships in early 2017, it will feature seven educational activities that were “designed under the guidance of our Advisory & Scientific Board in France.” The robot has been tested by six special education schools, and a more comprehensive study will take place throughout 2017. Here are the initial seven applications for Leka:
Picture Bingo: Leka’s screen will randomly display a picture of an object and ask the child to bring the object to Leka. Paired with RFID tags, Leka senses when a child returns with the displayed object and reacts positively to reward the child for completing the task. This game engages and develops fine motor skills, space-time orientation, attention and interaction. A timer can also be added to the game, encouraging children to complete daily tasks such as brushing their teeth.
Traveling Leka: Parents will place color patches, enabled with RFID tags, around the room. Leka will spin around, stop its attention on the child and light up a certain color. The child must then place Leka on the patch with the matching color to complete the task. Once the child finds the patch with the coordinating color, Leka will provide motivating feedback by laughing or lighting up.
Hide & Go Leka: Some hides Leka, and the child uses the sounds and vibrations Leka gives off to find the social robot. When the child finds Leka, the robot will open its eyes and make sounds, lights and vibrations, or change its expression.
Leka can play hide and seek
Remote Control Leka: While Leka is autonomous, it is also capable of giving parents, therapists, and caregivers the opportunity to control Leka’s features (colors, voice, movements, lights, etc.) so it may be able to respond to a child’s specific behavior. This application also allows the child to maneuver Leka between obstacles and follow a specific path, helping to develop their fine motor skills and coordination.
Remote Control Leka
Alarm Clock, Night Light, Timer: Leka will offer three autonomy-building apps such as Time-Timer, Alarm Clock, and Nightlight, common assistance tools for special needs children.
Night Light Leka
Leka Social Robot Tracks Progression
One of the cool things about Leka is that users can customize the level of difficulty and how much guidance children get for each game. And to monitor progress, Leka captures data on how the children interact with the device and stores that information in the cloud.
For example, when analyzing the raw data generated through the interaction of the child with the robot, we can understand what kind of guidance is more helpful to the child to allow him to complete the task. All of this information is displayed in graphs on the tracking tab of the monitoring platform.