Nimaya: Robots Transforming Therapy For The Autistic


In Sanskrit, Nimaya means ‘to make a change,’ which is exactly what this Chennai-based startup, Nimaya Innovations, is doing. Founded in 2018, the company made its mission to help autistic children become more independent using IoT-based robots.

Children with autism and multiple disabilities are more attracted to robots and robot-like figures. That’s because robots have routines. For any task, robots will do the same thing over and over again, a million times, using the exact same method. The children responded well to that. This is what Dr Ramya Moorthy, Founder of Nimaya Innovations, realized as she went to about 75 schools with special needs and worked with teachers, special educators, and special organizations.

Joystick skills training unit (Credit: Nimaya Innovations)
Joystick skills training unit Credit Nimaya Innovations

As part of his PhD, Dr Moorthy designed five different robots that help children develop daily life skills and their associated psychomotor and cognitive skills. “In my research, I found many studies that have been done about facial expression, social interaction, and communication. But one of the biggest areas that have not been concentrated on is psychomotor skills,” said Dr Moorthy.

Dr Ramya S Moorthy, Founder of Nimaya Innovations
Dr Ramya S Moorthy Founder of Nimaya Innovations

The company uses unique methods like ‘active learning’ and Suprayoga method. Unlike traditional therapy, Nimaya robots provide children with audio-visual feedback, enabling them to learn an activity quickly and also retain it for a longer period of time. Most importantly, children are able to generalize an activity in everyday life. Suppose a teacher shows the children an apple and says, “It’s red.” Until children see an apple again, they cannot relate the color red to a red ball or a red chair. But when it comes to Nimaya’s robots, generalization happens automatically because of the way the robots are designed.

These robots are made after a lot of ergonomic planning and planning with disability in mind. “We need to look at line of sight, color combination, depth perception, and peripheral vision. All these factors also need to be considered,” explained Dr Moorthy. The most interesting thing is that Nimaya robots should be used together with a therapist, and not as a standalone product. This is because, for a child with autism or with multiple disabilities, one of the biggest challenges is social interaction. “We’ve always been very clear that we never take the human being out of the equation,” he said.

The devices are completely IoT-based, and every system is connected. “When I talked to therapists, special educators, and counselors, I realized they didn’t have many tests. The reason was that they could not handle the volume of data that came with it,” Dr Moorthy recalls. With Nimaya’s robots, the amount of data the therapist has to enter is literally four touches! The rest of it will be handled automatically by the system. The data then goes through different sets of algorithms and gives the output graph.

During the Covid pandemic, Nimaya Innovations pivoted to an app called Gita. Gita stands for Growth and Intelligence Tracking Application. It is a multi-lingual application that helps parents track the milestones of children from birth to five years. It assesses the child’s growth in five different ways—psychomotor skills, social interaction, communication, self-awareness, and understanding. The best part is that it is a completely free app.

Apart from the app, the company runs its flagship products in two models. Any special school can subscribe to the devices and return the systems later. The second model is where schools can directly purchase the devices. Also, these products can be ordered from anywhere in India!

Nimaya Innovations is going for investments in the near future. Talking about the hiring trends, Dr Moorthy says, “Soon, we will be looking to expand our marketing team and sales team.” The company won the ‘Best Innovation of the Year’ award from the Telangana government. Apart from that, Nimaya Innovations has received many accolades and grants till date. And surely more are likely to come in the future!


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