Robots for Autism Therapy: KOALA’s Fuzzy Logic


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The Koala Robot can Help Autistic Kids. Image courtesy of K-Team SA

Autism is a disorder that typically appears in very young children, affecting their ability to interact socially, communicate effectively and enjoy imaginative play. A 2008 Temple University study demonstrated that Sensory Integration Therapy, in which the therapist responds to sounds, movements or other behavioral cues from the child, is an effective teaching tool for children with autism. Using fuzzy logic, a robot called KOALA combines artificial intelligence with sensory integration to help therapists who are teaching special needs children.

Sensory Integration Therapy and Autism

Sensory integration therapy is used to help children with autism get used to situations to which they are sensitive, in a fashion that is not distressing to the child. This type of therapy assumes that the distress felt by autistic children is the result of over-stimulation, or under-stimulation.

By providing an environment filled with low-interaction and high-interaction objects, therapists can gain insight into the needs of the autistic child. The use of an artificial intelligence program to both measure input and respond to behavioral cues allows a therapist to improve the chances of reaching therapy goals.

Fuzzy Logic Knowledge Base

World Autism Awareness Day: Image Courtesy the United Nations

A fuzzy logic knowledge base is populated with expert information. In the case of the KOALA autism therapy assistant robot, the therapist has the power to directly populate the knowledge base. Rather than the complex computer languages necessary for most programming tasks, the use of fuzzy logic allows the therapist to make rules for the robot that make intuitive sense.

The rules in a fuzzy logic knowledge base are based on a combination of circumstances. For example, if a particular child gives a behavioral cue that he is overstimulated, the cue can be given to the robot as an input. The robot can then combine the cue with the situation, and provide an appropriate response. As more cues are stored by the robot, it will be increasingly able to respond adequately to the child’s needs.

KOALA Robot for Autistic Children

The KOALA robot is a small round ball that interacts with autistic children via lights and sounds. The therapist uses the robot as an assistant, providing appropriate responses as needed as well as storing information about the child’s actions and activities. By using this fuzzy logic-powered robot, parents and therapists may improve the success of sensory integration activities.


Arent, K., Wnuk, M.; Remarks on Behaviors Programming of the Interactive Therapeutic Robot KOALA Based on Fuzzy Logic Techniques. The Institute of Computer Engineering, Control and Robotics, Wroclaw University of Technology, Poland; Published: Springer, Berlin; (2007).

Temple University (2008, April 27). Autistic Mannerisms Reduced By Sensory Treatment.

U.S. National Library of Medicine (2008, May 12). Autism. Retrieved May 15, 2010.

This article was originally published on Suite101.

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