Robots aren't known for their soft side. They build cars and defuse bombs; they don't, as a rule, make friends or deal with feelings. But a few groups of researchers around the world are working to build robots for an unusual purpose: Making emotional connections with autisticchildren who often struggle to interact with humans.
There's something about machines that really seems to resonate with many kids with autism, says Maja Mataric, co-director of the Robotics Research Lab at USC. These children often have trouble reading human emotions and social cues — complexities they don't have to worry about when they're around a mechanical being.
"Robots are simpler than people
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