ROBOTS could be used to boost the life chances of children and young adults in Bolton with learning difficulties, disabilities and autism.

The small humanoid robots, known as QTrobots, are designed by tech company LuxAI to support therapists and educators and use facial expressions, gestures and games as part of specially designed educational modules.

Having been taken on by the Greater Manchester based Together Trust, they are being used to teach children cognitive, language, social and emotional skills that encourage greater participation and interaction in the classroom.

Bridge College acting head Jeremy Swinn said: "They’ve have had a really positive impact.

"All the students involved in the trial have responded well and are very willing to take part in activities.

"Many learners have engaged with the robots for lengthy periods of time, longer than they would engage in face-to-face interactions.

"The robots have tended to act as a pivot of attention between the learner and the member of staff and that’s led to sustained interactions, which in turn means better learning outcomes."

The learning process works with a teacher, support worker or therapist controlling the robot which stands on a desk and interacts with the student, acting as a pivot point between the two.

The aim is to improve the student’s capacity to communicate and understand emotions and social contexts.

Tom, a 24-year-old student who has experienced this at first hand, said: “I really enjoy the robots because they help me concentrate and they’re fun. When I work hard it makes me happy, and the robots help me work harder.”

According to LuxAI, young people with autism often take a keen interest in technology and react well to the rules-based and predictable nature of computers.

Tom’s mother Frances said: “We know Tom loves being with the robots and the staff tell us that his progress has been remarkable.

"He can be very focused and actively listen, and he can stay engaged for a long time.

"What we’re hoping to see is Tom actually transferring that ability to stay focused to the things he does when the robots aren’t there."