Autism and digital technology: the Mwoo project progresses

Mwoo is a small, connected robot designed for people with disabilities, and in particular people with autism. We met its creator, Pierre Rouhaoud, at the VivaTech trade fair last summer. Six months later, the project is continuing to progress.

robot Mwoo autism
© Stimul’activ


6 months after our initial meeting, how has the project progressed?

Shortly after our meeting I met lots of potential partners to develop Mwoo. I met with several ADAPEIs (departmental associations of parents of people with mental disabilities) and centres specialising in autism that want to support us. I also went to La Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital.
For the project, we clearly defined what Mwoo should be. Our challenge was the features, we had to define a certain number to be able to say: "it does that and nothing else." Currently, Mwoo is focused on the senses: sight, smell, touch, hearing. We are also working on planning a full day so that Mwoo can carry out consecutive actions.
We have also integrated new constraints. We were asked to make it watertight so that it can be washed and also to work on user recognition. To do that, we designed tiny RFID chips so that Mwoo directly recognises the user.

Pierre Rouhaud creator Mwoo
Pierre Rouhaud


Has Mwoo been tested by users?

As of now, no, because Mwoo is not totally functional yet. We used apprehension a lot, to understand how people interact with Mwoo. We worked a lot with the teams. There is definitely interest and even fascination in the idea, but with no specific features, it is not easy to understand what it is for.

There has been one major change since June. Initially, Mwoo was designed for adults and we realised that children also have the same needs. We are aiming to start testing in April. Half a dozen Mwoos will be sent around France and Belgium, with the idea of quickly launching advance sales for deliveries at the end of the summer. Lastly, we are considering crowdfunding, although we are aware that it is difficult to create a community.

We are currently working on our message: Mwoo is a fun object, it is not a tool to treat autism. It is a tool that people can use to try to calm down and that provides support on a day-to-day basis.

How long will the tests last?

They will last between 2 and 3 months. We noticed that if the users don’t adopt it within two or three weeks, they never will. At the end of April, we will have received our first feedback. This feedback is very important as it will help us to correctly define Mwoo’s features.

Where can we use Mwoo?

Initially, it was really designed to be used in institutional settings. As the recognition system is based on RFID chips, it is quite possible that users could take Mwoo home at the weekend. That way, the contact between Mwoo and the user is not broken.

In business settings, the situation is different. It is a characterised object, which is not necessarily easy to put on a desk, but we are thinking about it.

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