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Virtual reality and robots for autism: moving beyond the screen

Judith Good (School of Engineering and Informatics, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK)
Sarah Parsons (Southampton Education School, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)
Nicola Yuill (School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK)
Mark Brosnan (Department of Psychology, University of Bath, Bath, UK)

Journal of Assistive Technologies

ISSN: 1754-9450

Article publication date: 19 December 2016




This short paper reports on the fourth seminar in a seven-seminar series entitled, “Innovative Technologies for Autism: Critical Reflections on Digital Bubbles”, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council. The purpose of this paper is to consider in more depth the technologies being developed and used in the autism field, and to critically reflect on their relative benefits and potential pitfalls.


Presentations from key researchers and practitioners are reviewed, highlighting contemporary issues in the area of autism and technology. The presentations include descriptions of cutting-edge technologies as well as the role of technology in human-human interaction.


Despite its potential, technology for autism is regarded by many with some caution: technology per se cannot provide solutions to key issues in the field. However, by looking in more depth at the features of new technologies and the interactions that take place with and around them, we can begin to build up a picture of best practice around technology for autism.


This paper offers up-to-date insights from leading academics on the benefits and challenges of innovative technologies in the field of autism research and practice. Specifically, it highlights the importance of including a breadth of expertise in the design of such tools, and the need to consider technology as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.



The seminar series “Innovative technologies for autism: critical reflections on digital bubbles” is a collaboration between the Universities of Southampton, Sussex and Bath, funded by the ESRC [ES/M002624/1]. The authors are very grateful to the following individuals, whose demonstrations of cutting-edge technologies provided ample food for thought and discussion: Ruth Aspden, St Anthony’s School in Chichester and Novio Support; Paul Strickland and Peter Moore, Xenodu; and Benoît Bossavit, University of Navarra. Thanks also to the rapporteurs who play a crucial role in summarising key information from the seminars and supporting the website and blog: Nigel Newbutt, University of the West of England; and Chris Girvan, University of Sussex.


Good, J., Parsons, S., Yuill, N. and Brosnan, M. (2016), "Virtual reality and robots for autism: moving beyond the screen", Journal of Assistive Technologies, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 211-216.



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