Stories: Meet IM-TWIN, the EIC Pathfinder project addressing autism spectrum disorders
Let us present you another new EIC Pathfinder project: IM-TWIN. The project wants to develop an innovative, modular, technological system, called IM-TWIN, for the monitoring and treatment of cognitive and emotional skills of typical developed children and children with autism spectrum disorders.
IM-TWIN builds on the ongoing GOAL-Robots project, which aims to develop a new paradigm to build open-ended learning robots called `Goal-based Open-ended Autonomous Learning' (GOAL). GOAL-Robots’ research explores intrinsic motivations or goal-based skill learning. Also, the team has already presented +me device (PlusMe robot), a prototype of worlds’s first “Transitional Wearable Companion (TWC)”, designed for the therapy of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and pervasive Developmental disorders. It can support, facilitate and foster the development of basic social skills, like eye contact, joint attention, request of engagement, or social referencing. It has a form of a soft, animal-shaped robot, which can potentially motivate the children to interact with a parent or therapist, during the therapeutic activities.
IM-TWIN wants to deepen the previous research and bring the results to the market. The project will develop a technological system, which counts in further innovation of PlusMe robot, visual detection of emotion, or overall integration of software based on IoT (Internet of things) principles.
The project coordinator, Dr. Gianluca Baldassarre adds:
Our project shows how supporting basic research, in particular directed to study curiosity and learning in children to build robots with similar capabilities, can lead to applications useful for people, in this case for children with developmental problems.
The project starts in January 2021 and will run for 24 months. The outcomes should be available to use for e.g. ASD therapy centres and, potentially, families with ASD children. In the research team, there are institutions from Italy, Portugal, Netherlands and France involved.
IM-TWIN is one of the 13 projects that have succeeded in the EIC Transition to Innovation Activities call (FETPROACT-EIC-06-2019). The call sought for promising technologies as they were at the end of a typical FET-Open or FET Proactive project (i.e., TRL 2/3) to a level of development, validation and demonstration where they became a credible basis for entrepreneurship, business creation, investment and, ultimately, economic and/or societal returns. The call invited applications to further develop results from previous or on-going FET projects in 5 areas: micro and nano-technologies, artificial intelligence and advanced robotics, technologies for the life sciences, health and treatment (where IM-TWIN had applied), low-carbon energy and climate change technologies and interaction technologies.
FET-Open and FET Proactive are now part of the Enhanced European Innovation Council (EIC) Pilot (specifically the Pathfinder), the new home for deep-tech research and innovation in Horizon 2020, the EU funding programme for research and innovation.