Does appearance matter in the interaction of children with autism with a humanoid robot?

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115 Citations (Scopus)


This article studies the impact of a robot’s appearance on interactions involving four children with autism. This work is part of the Aurora project with the overall aim to support interaction skills in children with autism, using robots as ‘interactive toys’ that can encourage and mediate interactions. We follow an approach commonly adopted in assistive robotics and work with a small group of children with autism. This article investigates which robot appearances are suitable to encourage interactions between a robot and children with autism. The children’s levels of interaction with and response to different appearances of two types of robots are compared: a small humanoid doll, and a life-sized ‘Theatrical Robot’ (a mime artist behaving like a robot). The small humanoid robot appeared either as a human-like ‘pretty doll’ or as a ‘robot’ with plain features. The Theatrical Robot was presented either as an ordinary human, or with plain clothing and a featureless, masked face. The results of these trials clearly indicate the children’s preference in their initial response for interaction with a plain, featureless robot over the interaction with a human-like robot. In the case of the life-size Theatrical Robot, the response of children towards the plain/robotic robot was notably more social and pro-active. Implications of these results for our work on using robots as assistive technology for children with autism and their possible use in autism research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479 - 512
Number of pages34
JournalInteraction Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2006


  • Assistive technology
  • Autism
  • Human-Robot Interaction
  • Robot appearance


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