(original CUHK link)


Principal Investigator

  • Prof. SO Wing Chee, Catherine


  • Funding Sources

    Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund

    Hong Kong Research Grant Council

    The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (Professional Services Advancement Support Scheme)

    Innovation and Technology Commission

  • Collaboration

    NEC Hong Kong Limited

  • Patent

    6 trademarks in China

    3 trademarks in Hong Kong

  • Award

    Runners up in E-Education & Learning Award (Private Sector/NGO), WITSA Global Innovation and Tech Excellence Award 2022

    Silver Medal, International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva 2022

    Merit Award, Information Communication and Technology Awards, in 2018 and Gold Award in 2021

    Outstanding Social Service Award, 2021 Best Practice Awards in Social Welfare; Service Delivery Award (Innovative Ideas),  Service Delivery Award (User Participation) and Service Delivery Award (Evidence-based Practice))

RABI®, an innovative, theory-driven, and evidence-based intervention, aims to enhance social and communicative functioning of autistic individuals, facilitate their societal inclusion, and eventually promote their economic self-sufficiency. Through the demonstration of the appropriate social skills in robot dramas, autistic children are taught self-care skills, appropriate ways to behave in various scenarios, and emotional understanding and expression. With different levels of difficulty, RABI® can cater diverse learning needs of autistic individuals.

Social robots, HUMANE, deployed in RABI®

Uniqueness and Competitive Advantages:

  • Has 10 modules covering a plethora of social and behavioral skills according to a simple-to-complex approach
  • Caters for diverse socio-economic background of autistic learners
  • Compared with humans, robots can better reduce autistic children’s agitation in learning social skills
Group-based RABI® class

HONG KONG, April 22 (Reuters) – A Hong Kong professor has developed an educational programme using role-playing robots to help children with autism improve their social skills, part of an initiative adopted by non-profit groups and schools.

The programme, Robot for Autism Behavioral Intervention (RABI), is designed for people with autism between the ages of 3 and 18, and aims to help them be more social and to resolve issues such as conflicts and bullying.

Catherine So, associate professor of educational psychology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Reuters more than 1,200 children have used the programme since its 2015 launch.

“Individuals with autism have low motivation to interact with others, and hypersensitivity to the world around them,” So said. “So we use the social robots to teach them social skills in order to reduce their anxiety.”

The robots engage the children with role-playing and verbal interaction. A typical class involves two small robots acting out social scenarios on a table top, helping the children see the difference between appropriate and unacceptable behaviour such as tantrums or screaming.

Muse Wong, 41, said her 5-year-old daughter has been in the programme for seven months and her social and communicative skills have improved vastly.

“She has started to have some degree of social life”, Wong said.

After interacting with the robots, the children are encouraged to try out their social skills with a human tutor.

More than 20 non-profit groups financed by governments and public schools in Hong Kong and Macau have adopted the programme. So hopes the project will help fight against exclusion.

“We believe RABI can help children with autism improve their social and behavioural skills, and in turn enhance the quality of their life”, she said.

Reporting by Yoyo Chow; Editing by Karishma Singh and Gerry Doyle