Robot buddies may soon help children with ADHD

(From far right) Mr Denzil Ang, Mr Valent Chia and Mr Chin Yong Kang with their robot-cum-mobile app which, when paired with a SenzeBand, can help children with ADHD to improve their focus.
(From far right) Mr Denzil Ang, Mr Valent Chia and Mr Chin Yong Kang with their robot-cum-mobile app which, when paired with a SenzeBand, can help children with ADHD to improve their focus.ST PHOTOS: ALVIN HO
The mobile app allows the user to set the concentration threshold at which an alarm in the robot is triggered to get the user to re-focus. Users can see how their concentration has improved week on week with the app's stored data.
The mobile app allows the user to set the concentration threshold at which an alarm in the robot is triggered to get the user to re-focus. Users can see how their concentration has improved week on week with the app's stored data.

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could have a robot companion to help them with their studies from March.

A robot-cum-mobile application has been developed by a team of three students from the diploma in electrical and electronic engineering course at Singapore Polytechnic (SP), in collaboration with tech company Neeuro.

It was among 96 final-year projects displayed at the annual SP Engineering Show yesterday.

The robot and app will be paired with the SenzeBand - Neeuro's wearable technology - which tracks the brainwaves of its user via Bluetooth. The SenzeBand monitors a user's concentration levels during study sessions. Every 15 minutes, the user is given a rating from one star to five stars. If concentration levels fall below 2.5 stars, this triggers an alarm from the robot to get the user to re-focus.

Users can see how their concentration has improved week on week with the app's stored data.

"ADHD kids have impulsiveness issues, so they might not know what they're doing right. So they'll be like, 'Oh, I'm doing the right thing,' even when they're not," said Mr Denzil Ang, 22, one of the students behind the 10-month-old project.

The new platform will be tested among ADHD children in March. A retail price of $600 has been set.

Another project at yesterday's event that may be brought to market soon is the RSP-50 rehabilitation arm brace, a portable device that helps stroke patients to regain motor control in their limbs through stretching and strengthening exercises.

A team of three SP students worked with occupational therapists at St Andrew's Community Hospital to better understand patients' needs. "Some patients are not very mobile, but still have to travel to places for therapy. This is where our idea for it being home-based came from," said team member Tan Shu Xian, 20.

The team has tested the arm brace on 10 healthy subjects over the past six months. The arm brace is awaiting approval from the authorities. The team hopes to launch it at St Andrew's Community Hospital and rehabilitation centres within the next six months.

Other projects showcased include a robotic barista, a mechanical arm that dispenses drinks such as coffee and bubble tea, and an automated transporter that senses and avoids moving obstacles.

Correction note: In an earlier version of the story, we said the students who created the robot-cum-mobile application are from Singapore Polytechnic's diploma in bioengineering course. This is incorrect. The are from the diploma in electrical and electronic engineering course.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2018, with the headline 'Robot buddies may soon help children with ADHD'. Print Edition | Subscribe