« Robots are coming » may sound to you like « Winter is coming » to Jon… But you won’t need to wait for six seasons. Robots are currently the going thing. Last month, we met Tetrao and their Artificial Intelligence. This month, we will discover LuxAI and their creation, QT.
Okay, to be completely honest, last month we teased you about robots and ended up talking about a very powerful algorithm. This time, don’t leave us because we are not joking, we really met one. Once again, it’s not a deadly weapon with an Austrian accent. It’s actually the exact opposite. First of all, let’s introduce you to Dr. Aida Nazarikhorram and Dr. Pouyan Ziafati, two successful young researchers, both born in Iran, and now established in Luxembourg. They are the co-founder of LuxAI. They are also married, and their first child is QT, pronounce it “cutie”.
Now you are wondering, who is this little QT we are talking about? Well, it is a POC, “proof of concept”, just 18 months old but already able to help autistic children to communicate, to interact. Let’s discover more about this life changing invention.
Dear doctors, Aida and Pouyan, tell me more about your innovation. Do I understand correctly that it is a joint effort?
Exactly, we are offering an interdisciplinary innovation in our respective fields: medicine and robotics. We brought the best from both worlds.
From our understanding, the first goal of QT is to help autistic children. How can a robot answer their special needs?
We were in contact with a charity in Belgium that stressed the special educational needs Autistic children have. Autism is a developmental disability that causes significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. But autistic children may communicate, interact, behave and learn in ways that are different from most other people; they have special needs.
The main advantage of robots is that they can engage Autistic individuals and attract their attention, which is very hard and, in some cases, impossible for a human. Often, children with Autism have a very good relationship with technology, which empowers them to learn more with usage of robots, and which can improve the quality of the treatments by increasing the engagement of the children.
How does your robot help?
The robot will be a mediator between the teacher and the child. He is able to perform a bunch of repetitive tasks to help and follow the kid.
But your robot won’t replace the therapist.
No, Cutie won’t replace him. It will help the trainers to reduce the effort and deliver a more personalized and simplified education.
Why is it different from just a computer?
He is a very expressive and engaging robot. As you can see, he can do different gestures. He also has many facial expressions and emotions. He is able to stimulate the children with human-like interaction. In order to make it even more understandable, we have exaggerated the emotions. The kids will also be able to interact through the stories he will tell them. He will help the therapist to start a process. And he has terrific dance moves.
But our robot is not limited to those needs; it also can be used to help various populations of users, ranging in age, impairment and need, like seniors with different medical conditions and disabilities. Like rehabilitation assistance for repetitive tasks such as those in post-stroke recovery, exercise therapy for Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disabilities, companionship roles in nursing homes.
Robots have the potential to combine the massive replication and standardization of computer technology with the benefits of learning in a social and tangible (hands-on) context.
The goal is not to replace existing therapies and therapists, but to augment current options and allow for greater flexibility for both patients and professional by taking charge of repetitive tasks.
And what do you add to the existing robots?
We are offering very easy, intuitive programing of our robot. We provide an Android interface that can be used by everyone. We enable non-computer experts to use social robots in educational life.
QT is user-friendly in order to enable all teachers and therapists to use advanced robots in their everyday work of improving the health and education of people. You can easily build your own applications based on the exact need of each individual.
Is QT expensive?
No he is not, and shortly he will be available at something like 3000 €, and costs in the future will decrease rapidly, like it did for TV or computers. It is economical, and also internationally oriented, as he already speaks six languages.
It’s probably his Luxembourgish side! But does it speak Luxembourgish?
So there is room for improvement! Tell us why you have chosen Luxembourg to develop QT and establish your company?
To make a long story short, I (Dr. Pouyan Ziafati) had a master from University of Genoa and was looking for a good university for research and Ph.D. I started in Ireland but moved here to UNI, where I was employed until the end of June 2016. I chose this university because it’s of high level, certainly focused on limited fields, but very efficient, connected to other universities, and in the center of Europe, with allows us to reach all other European countries and the world. Then Aida, my wife, joined me from Iran after her medical studies at Hamedan University (Iran).
We found help here from the “Fonds National de la Recherche” which helped us to develop our company Lux Ai as a spin off of the University. Now, we will move shortly to the Future Lab and will continue the development.
And have you shown Cutie to the world?
We have already won awards for our project, as QT is really an effective Proof of Concept. It was even funny to see the reaction of the jury when we presented it. They tried to interact and communicate with the robot, waiving their hands at him. On the one side, it probably helped us win an award, but on the other side it is also proof that we are on the right path because our goal is to have a very engaging and interactive robot.