The Autism Solutions bot helps autistic kids

With one out of every 64 American children being affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder, it’s a huge problem worth working on. Shriya Sreeju (aged 6) agrees. She presented the Pepper Robot-powered Autism Solutions robot to the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon audience today.

“Pepper shows you a flash card on its screen,” Shriya explains. “If the kid shows the right card, they get a high five and the robot will say good job! When the kid gets two high fives, Pepper will do a happy dance and show a smiley on screen, to help show emotion.”

Robot to the rescue

The idea, Shriya explains, is to help autistic children build a better concept of emotions and learning to focus better.

“My dad built all the things in the computer,” Shriya says, but explains that she helped design how the bot should work. “If you show the wrong card, Pepper will remind you the name of the card. It helps kids with autism learn how to stay focused.”

She may not have coded the software, but when I spoke to her, it’s obvious she’s passionate about the problem. The passion showed especially when she took the stage: Her presentation was confident, clear and — with apologies to the other Hackathon presenters — better than a lot of other presentations we saw today.

“Were you nervous up there?” I asked her when she came off stage at the end of the presentation.

“No?” Shriya replied, apparently confused by the question. Awesome.

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“She has been playing with Dash and Dot robots for a while,” says Sreejumon Purayil, who works at a medtech startup. He’s also Sreeju’s father. “We spend a lot of time exploring technology.”

“I like a lot of things,” Shriya says, not ready to commit to a career in technology when she grows up. “Like arts and crafts, technology and gymnastics.”

You can see the team’s demo below.