DFF’s smart toys competition has a winner

Dubai Future Foundation’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution UAE (C4IR UAE) has named LuxAI the winner of its Smart Toys Competition. LuxAI, a spinoff from the University of Luxembourg, has a kid-sized bot named QTrobot that initially allows children who are overwhelmed by human contact to become more comfortable in a therapeutic setting.

QTrobot is already proving its worth from as a link between therapists, parents, and autistic children; winning the competition will provide support from DFF and Abu Dhabi’s Early Childhood Authority in developing the robot and piloting its use in the UAE.

Launched earlier this year in partnership with the World Economic Forum, the Early Childhood Authority and the National Program for Artificial Intelligence, the Smart Toys Competition received around 30 applicants from local and global startups and early-stage SMEs.

“AI-powered toys have tremendous potential benefits for children’s learning, play, and growth,” said WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab. “We believe that smart toys should be designed ethically and responsibly to protect, educate, and empower children … Artificial intelligence is transforming the world and also transforming children’s toys and childhood itself.”

The big deal about LuxAI is an Android-based programming interface designed to make it easier for non-experts to contribute to the platform. While autism is the early success story, there are obviously many other possible routes for development in other learning support and healthcare situations. For children there are particular advantages; because the robot is ‘embodied’, the developers have found that it that draws attention and improves learning — especially when compared to a standard pairing of a tablet and educational app (it seems children play with tablets and work with robots).

Two other winners were announced: Kodi 2.0 from Polish SME SmartLife Robotics, and RAINA from Spanish company Amaisys Technologies.

That’s a version of Kodi on the right. It is an intelligent and mindful robot who according to the developer “can be a good companion, but is also a great teacher. He will help a child acquire new skills in a new, fun and interactive way.” (Presumably there’s a gender-neutral version too.)

And RAINA is described as an AI toy framework based on the University of North Carolina’s TEACCH education programme for individuals on the autism spectrum; TEACCH is based on responding to autism as a culture rather than a disorder, designing education and communication programmes around the individual’s strengths, skills, interests and needs.

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