A Pilot Study of the KIBO Robot in Children with Severe ASD


This pilot study explores the feasibility of using the KIBO Robot as an engaging platform to positively impact social and emotional development in children with ASD. KIBO is a programmable toy robot originally designed to teach coding and sequencing to neuro-typical children between 4 and 7 years of age. To assess its use in children with severe ASD, twelve participants were introduced to KIBO and engaged in a variety of activities with the robot over four consecutive days. Their interactions were observed on site by raters and simultaneously videotaped for later analysis. We performed a detailed quantitative and qualitative analysis in two subjects who completed six or more of the eight planned KIBO play sessions. We observed that most of the participants showed sustained interest in the KIBO robot and increased the frequency of their interactions with adults across play sessions. Although the participants demonstrated only a limited understanding of programming principles during the study, they managed to manipulate the KIBO appropriately, engaged socially with the adults in the room and interacted positively with the robot during individual play. The findings suggest that the KIBO robot warrants further study as an engaging educational platform for children with ASD.

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This research project is funded by NSF Grant No. DRL-1118897 and the Government of Panama, as well as a Tufts University FRAC Grant.

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Correspondence to Jordi Albo-Canals.

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Appendix 1

See Table 5.

Table 5 Micro-behaviors for video coding

Appendix 2

See Table 6.

Table 6 Modified PTD engagement checklist for ASD

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Albo-Canals, J., Martelo, A.B., Relkin, E. et al. A Pilot Study of the KIBO Robot in Children with Severe ASD. Int J of Soc Robotics 10, 371–383 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-018-0479-2

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  • Education
  • Robots
  • Social activities
  • KIBO
  • Learning
  • Social skills
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Programming