The anime-eyed toy was first displayed at CES 2016 followed by a prototype showcasing in CES 2017 as well. This toy robot uses fun games to teach children with autism valuable motor, social, and intellectual skills. There’s barely any toy customized for the children with the different ability. The special needs that a differently abled child have, make it even harder to find that one suitable toy for them. And this made Ladislas work on designing Leka to make an exceptional child learn and progress.
"We didn’t get into robotics because we like science, we got into robotics because we saw there the potential to help children who need it the most", says Ladislas, the Co-founder, and CEO of Leka. He and his team met with as many children, parents, caregivers, and friends to understand about autism. The thing about differently abled children, as they found, is that they are all different and they all have different challenges that need to be approached differently. But there’s one thing that they all have in common, and that is the hindrance faced while interacting with them. They play by themselves leaving hardly any scope for one to communicate effectively. This led to the invention of Leka as a tool in the shape of a toy to help the parents, caregiver or the therapists to connect to the child on the spectrum.
Leka can roll around all by itself, change color and has a built-in display designed to involve children with interactive games. It has explicitly designed apps like “Color Bingo” and "Hide and Go Seek”. The Leka team worked hand-in-hand with the therapists and special education schools. It can be said that Leka is the result of the fusion of the team’s knowledge of how to develop a robot and the therapists understanding of how to take care of the kids.
Leka is programmed to change expressions of its adorable face. The motor sensor helps it to detect the object, its size, shape, and position too. It responds through games to its user using sound, light, and colors. The games are customizable and targetted to enhance their cognitive and motor skills.
Though initially designed predominantly for children with autism, the first test was done with children at school with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. Eventually, it was found that the robot works with those children, as well.
Ladislas, who prefers to call Leka as an educational tool than a therapy device, said that the key lies in those sensors. The monitoring platform is what makes it stand out amidst all other toys. The Leka team launched the crowdfunding ‘Indiegogo campaign’ for Leka in April 2016.
Leka may remind one about Baymax, or the rolling robot BB-8 from the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" but mostly with WALL-E, a programmed robot whose action overwhelms us with emotions. Of course an emotionless programmed robot, but the purpose behind Lekas invention is drenched in the purest of the emotion and empathy for those differently abled kids. This is what that cajoles our heart about Leka.