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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

#FromMarginToCenter: Inclusive Design: Cognitive

Leka, a United States company, has come up with an interactive robot that facilitates learning in children with disabilities. The multi-sensory smart toy offers children with special needs the ability to play fun and educational games that motivate social interactions.

Equipped with multiple sensors, the Leka robot responds to a child’s interaction through autonomous behaviours. According to the company’s Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, the smart toy turns red when it’s mistreated, a colour associated with sadness. “Interactive responses like this aim to help children better understand social cues and improve their social skills,” writes the company.



The Cairer delivers personalized anxiety and depression support to those who care for dementia sufferers. Devised for healthcare providers such as the National Health Service and Medicare, this integrated service monitors caregiver well-being through well-established AI-directed cognitive behavioral therapy. Therapy is administered for an identified issue via six Bluetooth micro-vibrating tappers. These reproduce the anxiety-relieving effects of the Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as needless acupuncture or tapping. Placement of the tappers on the facial meridian points is guided by the AI in the app. The tappers are induction charged while stored in the protective case.

Gold Award of IDSA 2020


From the combined creative minds of Shirin Amini and Farid Hatami comes a masterpiece, “Things”: a game therapy for kids, especially those diagnosed with Autism. At first glance, it’s quite a confounding piece of work, something which has the ability to pique your interest at once. It evokes a “tell me more” feeling within us. But here’s why “Things” truly caught our attention! Though it can be used as a handy bedside lamp or reading light for kids of all ages and helps them to recognize textures and colors, the designers took into consideration the needs of Autistic children, allowing “Things” to have a therapeutic effect on them. Not only that, it can be used by them for ‘sensory development’. It helps to strengthen their tactile and visual senses, in turn solidifying their interpersonal skills and social interactions.



What this particular product, the “Repeat,” does, is to teach the child to limit their repeated actions to a time frame indicated on the product by flashing LED lights. There’s also a small numbered timer for goal-setting.



Understanding and acceptance of autism is a growing movement, and with that includes design that aims to aid the development of social skills. This simple yet effective tool, called Joyco, is a game for parents and children that focuses on playful interaction. Tactile elements stimulate pleasure in the form of touch and an interactive hoop game encourages eye contact with mom or dad! 



Croatian brand Tink Things creates kids’ furniture with "sensory intelligence" in mind. Designed on the premise that learning and creativity are processes that involve the entire body, the Mia and Ika chairs explore how furniture can support the mental state of autistic children.

Mia is a cocoon-like spherical enclosure of black fabric held within a timber frame. The seat has a gentle swing to help with concentration and soothe the child, and the soft, embracing form can be opened up and closed off to create a sense of privacy and escape when they’re feeling overwhelmed.By contrast, the Ika chair is for kids who need physical stimulation. The seat is a soft, padded swing suspended by rope from outer timber legs. It encourages the child to rock and bounce to release frenetic energy for more engaged learning.


Memo is a concept design of a caregiver robot for early to middle stages of Alzheimer patients. The robot acts as a good companion by playing games and movies, or singing songs. Plus, it can monitor the patients and remotely communicate with their family members and doctors. Memo also provides patients some pills by schedule.  



The true magic of Relish Aquapaints is that people in the later stages of dementia are able to express themselves creatively whilst feeling a sense of joy and accomplishment. Each soothing stroke of the brush, with just a dash of water, reveals a beautiful image below. Spending time in the creative process can enhance mental wellbeing and relaxation for people with dementia. Best of all, when the water dries, the canvas will fade back to white ready to paint again!