In particular, we intend to study the task of robotic gaze following. Gaze following is an important component of language acquisition: to learn words, a first step is to determine what the speaker is looking at, a problem solved by the human infant by about 1 year of age (Brooks & Meltzoff, 2002). We hope to endow robots with a similar capability.
This is fascinating because one of the reason kids with autism have difficulty learning is that their 'gazing' behavior is not optimal, which in effect stops them from learning by imitation. Another aspect of the connection between the two approaches is how imitation can be a quantifier of Autism at an early age. Video made by families of kids with autism show charateristic behaviors at an early age (9-12 months.) More recent papers show the behavior can be seen earlier at 4-6 months.