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May 21, 2014

Autism and Robots

The CDC reports that 1 in 68 children have been diagnosed with Autism, and it is five times more common in boys than girls.   The rate of diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to AutismAction.org, has been increasing by 10 to 17% per year.   Certainly some of that increase comes from better diagnosis, but my understanding is that it is actually increasing in society for as yet not well understood reasons.   

As part of my time off and figuring out what I want to do next, I’ve been hanging out with a lot of entrepreneurs and start up teams.  One that I just have to write about is Jalali Hartman, a Boulder entrepreneur who is trying to help children and adults with Autism, and he’s doing it with a low-cost robot.  I think that is so cool to use technology to help people, and he seems to be getting results.  His company ROBAUTO is getting great press, and it’s not because he’s got a PR machine behind him, it’s because people see what he’s doing and they want to see him succeed.  I know I do.
The first version of the robot from ROBAUTO is named ONE.  It’s already been selected as a 2014 Global IP Champion by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  He was selected, and successfully completed the 2013 HealthBox Florida Accelerator class.  He’s demoed at New Tech Meetup, this year’s Boulder Startup Week, and he’s been written up in UX Magazine, FreeEnterprise.com, Autism Daily Newscast, and most recently there was a great article in Health Source Magazine (page 24-29).  Check out the robauto.co website for even more.
Jalali tells how some people who just can’t interact or even speak, become captivated with robots.  Just interacting with the robot seems to help some of the people, but Jalali even involved them in the design process.  The great thing he says is some of the least expensive devices showed some of the most promise.  Autism can be very expensive and health coverage varies, so a multi-thousand dollar robot would be out of reach for most families even if it could be shown to help their loved ones.  ROBAUTO ONE is expected to come in at the low hundreds price point.
There is a lot of work to be done, but it is wonderful to see someone combining their love of technology with their love of people and a strong desire to help make the world a better place.  Jalali recently moved to Boulder from Florida to be part of our start-up community.  Buy him a cup of coffee and ask him how you can help.  He'll be the guy in the back of Amante coffee with the robot on the table and a big smile on his face.
I have to also add that Autism has not touched my family directly, but my daughter-in-law Tori Gold works with children with Autism, and I admire her so much for the work she does.  She loves her kidos, and her and my son Christopher have worked hard to to raise awareness of Autism.

May 21, 2014 in Entrepreneurship, Robots | Permalink


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