New Art & Social Robot Therapy for Children on the Autism Spectrum


Art+ Social Robot Therapy

“Community facilitated art therapy classes combined with social robot therapy designed specifically for children on the autism spectrum to engage, inspire and enjoy!”

The Project: Romibo

  • Fine Art Miracles, Inc. (FAM) and Origami Robotics LLC (Origami) are collaborating to offer combined art therapy and social robot therapy: Art & Social Robot Therapy, for children 10 and under, with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) diagnosis.
  • The Romibo Robot is the first sensory adaptable social and mobile robot for special needs therapy and education. Its ability to address the individual sensory needs of each child with one robot, allows it to increase adoption and efficacy in social therapies. Our working research prototype Romibo (see above), features an integrated system of hardware and software to enable intuitive use for therapy and education. This platform is currently in distribution to universities around the world for use in the domains of autism, traumatic brain injury, dementia and education. FAM and Origami use Romibo to offer Art & Social Robot Therapy to children on the autism spectrum, hosted at various sites in and around the city of Pittsburgh.
  • FAM is developing lesson plans that can be implemented by art therapists in conjunction with the Romibo robot as part of this initiative. These lesson plans will eventually be made into apps and will be available worldwide, helping thousands of children on the autism spectrum as an offshoot of this seed project.


Aubrey Shick, CEO, Origami Robotics:cartoon romibo

While the robot, after 8 weeks, is clearly not a solution for all children (some kids were not as interested), but for others it can make a tremendous difference. with behavior modeling, teaching reciprocity, theory of mind, conflict resolution, creative play, peer play, motivating physical activity, promoting manners and modulation.

We filmed the robots at a local preschool with both neurotypical children as well as with children with special needs.  The filming was all group activities with the robot along with a few interviews with children and teachers.

It was amazing. I cannot wait for this video to come out. The footage is just incredible.  So illustrative. The preschool had only been using the robot for a week or so, but huge influence and behavior change was already evident. One teacher remarked that children with autism speak more when the robot is around, which makes their peers in turn speak more to them. Stimulating peer play is extremely valuable in building social skills. They were so excited to be in the video and to endorse the robot.

Romibo is a fantastic tool for capturing the attention of all aged children and motivating them to engage with the teacher or caregiver. A caregiver is able to puppet the robot with an iPad as an supporting social agent during learning and play. The iPad is able to control Romibo’s speech, mobility, gesture, and expression. By using the robot, teachers are able to model social behavior and bring out nurturing behavior in children. The children are eager to impress, educate and protect the robot. They are not possessive as with other pieces of technology. Some children, particularly those with social, behavioral and emotional disabilities, may be unkind to the robot to get attention or for entertainment.  The teacher is able to use Romibo’s speech and movement to model discomfort, disapproval and sadness from the point of view of robot.  The teacher then explains why the robot is upset and helps the child understand Romibo’s feelings and allows the child to apologize. This understanding of theory of mind and ability to influence a change in the child’s behavior is very difficult to attain. Social stories like this are often modeled in storybooks, or more recently, with screen-based characters and avatars. The embodiment of the robot bridges the gap, allowing the children to bring their learned behavior into reality.


Romibo’s ability to model behavior makes a perfect tool for engaging, motivating and educating individuals of all ages and abilities. Romibo can help teach language skills, even speaking spanish, motivate exercise with “Simon Says,” capture attention with “I Spy,” motivate creativity with “Tell me a story”, and many other social games.

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