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NAO & Rob'autisme

Published on February 9, 2016 Updated on January 18, 2018
Rob'autisme is the story of unprecedented experimental interaction between a robot and children with autism spectrum disorder. Centrale Nantes has developed a unique partnership with the Samothrace Psychotherapy Centre, CHU( Nantes University Hospital), Stereolux, Robots! Association to answer this question: can a humanoid robot be a mediation support in autism therapy?
Rob'autisme is where the worlds of psychotherapy, robotics and art meet. Centrale Nantes has been actively working in this field for the last two years to offer its engineering expertise to improve healthcare. Rob'autisme led by Sophie SAKKA, researcher at Centrale Nantes, is an illustration of this.
For several years, Nantes University Hospital - and specifically its day hospital, the psychotherapeutic center for older children and teenagers - has run a sound workshop with autistic children, led by the speech therapist Renald Gaboriau. In 2012, following an encounter with Stereolux, a space for the creation and diffusion of contemporary music and digital arts, the sound artist Cécile Liège joined the workshop.

What about Centrale Nantes ?
The involvement of Sophie Sakka, a researcher at Centrale Nantes, has helped to extend the sound workshops since November 2014, whereby teens can discover the world of robotics.
Specialized in the reproduction of human movement by robots, Sophie Sakka is working on exoskeleton production, that will one day allow the wearing of non-invasive implants, which can be particularly useful when the nervous system is disturbed, as for people with Alzheimer's.
In charge of the association Robots! which aims to democratize robotics, Sophie Sakka leads the workshop around Nao, in close contact with the work of sound production started in previous years.

Success and prospects
The day hospital team and Sophie Sakka meet on a fortnightly basis at Stereolux for these workshops where autistic adolescents explore the manipulation of the small French humanoid robot Nao. In six months, their progress was spectacular and exceeded the expectations of the medical staff. This unprecedented and promising scientific experimentation continues from January 2016 with new workshops. The four partners are already thinking about expanding the project to other communities to develop a protocol and give it a broader dimension.


This unusual partnership revealed the various partners to be highly complementary in running this experiment at the intersection between cultural activities and scientific research. This network of different sectors helped develop a project that is both artistic, technical, but also a therapeutic support. The Rob'autisme project, led by Nantes University Hospital, Stereolux, Robots! and Centrale Nantes is the result of this dynamic.
Published on February 9, 2016 Updated on January 18, 2018