Topobo for Children with Autism & ASD
Designed by Hayes Raffle, Amanda Parkes, Hiroshi Ishii and more at the MIT Media Lab

Topobo is the world's first construction toy with kinetic memory, the ability to record and playback physical motion!


Research studies with autistic children show that, in comparison to passive blocks, Topobo leads to:

Far more cooperative & parallel play

Increased observational behavior

Reduced solitary play patterns


Results of ASC states of play with Topobo

This figure shows the percentage of time that children spent within a particular state frame when using Topobo (Red bar) and Legos (Blue bar). Click on the above image for a larger view.


Topobo may also aid in:

Representation of Motion Perception - Topobo provides a way of experimenting with biologically inspired structures. Creatures look alive, repeat movement, and encourage improvement and self reflection.

Restricting Opportunities for Isolation - Parallel and co-operative interactions are more likely to occur. The tangible programming model requires children to cooperate in order to program creations that incorporate multiple degrees of freedom.

Fluid & Kinesthetic Experimentation - Children tend to lean toward mastery instead of goal orientation in fluid experimentation. Topobo's interaction model is kinesthetic in nature, allowing for physical expression of ideas.


Benefits of a Tangible User Interface for Children with Autism & ASD:

Increased sensory awareness

An opportunity for co-located collaboration and communication

Physical manipulatives may support autistic children to collaborate for extended periods of time by:

  • Helping channel children's attention
  • Providing a common context for sharing objects and ideas

Kinesthetic learning experience may be ideal for the development of social skills

"Computational offloading" by facilitating an external representation of an internal cognitive processes, thus:

  • Helping autistic children to learn to read other people's actions and intentions
  • Providing time and space for children's internal cognition to advance
  • Giving a chance for users to think and talk through objects being used

Read more about the research on Topobo with Autistic Children here: Collaborative Benefits of a Tangible Interface for Autistic Children


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Invented by Hayes Raffle, Amanda Parkes and Hiroshi Ishii at the MIT Media Lab