“When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth”
a short film about autism, robots and, yes, dinosaurs
For C.J., an 8-year-old boy with autism, the worst part of the day is lunch and recess. Recess, in particular, is too loud and unstructured. Both of them are dominated by social rules – like a secret code of conduct – for which everyone has the rulebook except C.J. Instead, C.J. spends that hour every day inside the classroom, carefully unpacking his lunch of orange foods (oranges, Cheetos, orange bell peppers); doing dinosaur puzzles; and watching the inscrutable faces and madcap smiles outside the window.
Everyone assumes that C.J. doesn't want to be social, doesn't want to make friends.
Everyone, that is, except a strange visitor . . . Kiwi, a 2-foot tall, owl-like, socially assistive robot.
A glimpse at life in the near future, based on cutting edge research from Professor Maja Matarić of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Recently named #5 by Business Insider on the list of the "25 Most Powerful Women Engineers in Tech," Prof. Matarić pioneered the entire field of socially assistive robotics (SAR) - robots that aid the elderly (such as stroke victims) and help autistic children with social interaction. Among her many honors, Maja was honored by President Obama in 2009 with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring; ABI's 2013 Women of Vision Awards; and Los Angeles Times Magazine's Top 5 Visionaries.
Prof. Matarić imagines a future where personalized robots might act as a "social bridge" between a child on the spectrum and a more neurotypical child, helping navigate social cues and interactions.
Said Matarić: "I would like to contribute to a future in which all people have the support they need to thrive and reach their potential. Some of that support must come from other people, but so much is needed, that some of it must come from technology. So we need to develop truly human-centric, ethical technologies, including robots."