Student researchers at the University of Amsterdam developed Phobot, an amazing interactive robot that serves as a strong visual and learning aid to help children who suffer from anxiety and phobias. It was built using various LEGO Mindstorms NXT kits and a number of RFID sensors. When Phobot is confronted by larger objects, it’s programmed to react with fear: It raises its eyebrows, turns around, and zips away in a panic. When it’s confronted with smaller objects, however, it can be coached not to be afraid. Then, when a larger object confronts Phobot again, it can be coached not to react with fear.
Researchers believe robots like Phobot can teach children how to deal with and ultimately overcome their phobias and anxieties. “This robot is there as a sort of buddy to help a child having any kind of actual fear, doing it step by step,” team member Ork de Rooij said. Phobot was built for the University of Amsterdam’s 2008 Human-Robot Interaction Student Design Competition, where it was voted the conference’s favorite robot; unfortunately, it’s not available for purchase.