News ID: 204116
Published: 0635 GMT November 11, 2017

A Haitian father makes a robot to teach his son to speak

A Haitian father makes a robot to teach his son to speak
Jean-Max Dumont and his son pose with the robot Dumont made from recycled materials in Port-au-Prince.

Using just a few recycled objects and his knack for programming, a man living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti made a robot that can have conversations with people.

When making the robot, he had one little person in mind: His three-year-old son, who has had trouble learning language, reported.

The proud father said that the robot is already improving his son’s communication skills.

Jean-Max Dumont, age 32, made a robot out of practically nothing: Salvaged pieces from old electronics, PVC and a bluetooth speaker.

He then used paper mâché — is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue — to make a face for it.

He programmed the robot to respond to questions using the Google Now personal assistant’s sound database. Dumont estimates that it cost him about $52, equivalent to about €45.

Dumont added, “I built this robot for my son. He is three but he speaks very little. He doesn’t really express himself. Even at school, it is hard to get more than a few words out of him.

“He tends to respond using gestures instead of speaking. However, we don’t have the money to take him to see a specialist to get a diagnosis.

“I noticed that my son liked to speak with Google voice recognition software. I am passionate about new technology and robotics.

“So I decided to make him a robot that he could converse with. It took me about two months to make it.

“I had the idea that my son might like talking to a robot, but, honestly, it was just a guess.

“However, since I’ve made the robot, I’ve noticed a marked improvement in my son. We use it to ask him questions and incite a response.

“We’ve seen him make amazing progress. Now that he has this robot, he speaks to more humans, too.

“It’s hard to know exactly what changed for him, but he is way less introverted than before.

“Two families contacted me because their children also have trouble expressing themselves.

“Unfortunately, I am not a pediatrician, so I’m not able to make robots that are adapted to the needs of these children.

“But it is clear that there is a real need here in Haiti for children who have problems with language-learning because specialists are expensive [It costs about €30 an hour to see a speech therapist in Port-au-Prince, and there are few specialists].

“I’d also like to experiment with making other low-cost robots aimed at improving people’s well-being and education.”

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