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Is New Google Glass-Based Solution a Blessing for Autistic people?

According to Dr Ned Sahin, Founder and CEO of Brain Power, a US-based science-driven company, Augmented Reality (AR)-powered wearable computers can help those with ASD gain confidence, clarity, understanding, social integration and self-sufficiency.

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In this technology, the child or adult wears light, computerised Glasses and sees and hears special feedback geared to the situation -- like digital coaching on facial expressions of emotions, when to look at people, feedback on the user's own state of stress or anxiety. Flickr
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Google Glass — an eye-wearable device that made headlines in 2015 but failed in the consumer technology space — has now rekindled the hopes of millions of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) globally, including in India. Although no official numbers are available, at least 70 million people have autism worldwide, including over 10 million in India.

According to Dr Ned Sahin, Founder and CEO of Brain Power, a US-based science-driven company, Augmented Reality (AR)-powered wearable computers can help those with ASD gain confidence, clarity, understanding, social integration and self-sufficiency.

There is no cure for autism but early diagnosis and intervention with therapies does improve the long-term outcome.

“We need help. We need families and schools to support the first wave of technology for autism and special school communities.

“I am open to collaboration if there is an interest from schools, organisations and families from India. We can customise our Google Glass-based applications for autistic people in India,” Dr Sahin told IANS.

Brain Power is currently working with several schools in the US. The “Empower Me” wearable system has been used by hundreds of children and adults on the autism spectrum.

In this technology, the child or adult wears light, computerised Glasses and sees and hears special feedback geared to the situation — like digital coaching on facial expressions of emotions, when to look at people, feedback on the user’s own state of stress or anxiety.

Google
The “Empower Me” wearable system has been used by hundreds of children and adults on the autism spectrum. Flickr

“The apps also encourage them to make eye contact and control repetitive behaviours — both of which are big challenges related to autism,” said Dr Sahin, a famed neuroscientist who studied at Harvard and MIT.

According to Dr Sahin, contrary to what most of the people think, kids actually treat wearable devices as fun and are facing no problem using them.

“We have discovered scientifically that people with autism enjoy using wearable devices and embedded software for socio-emotional learning,” Dr Sahin told IANS.

Each software module connects to Brain Power’s Cloud-hosted portal where Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms produce insights and predictions in real time.

The game-like apps collect numerical behavioural data — scientifically and rigorously — and present the child, family, school or clinic with insights and answers they can readily understand.

At AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington DC last month, Dr Sahin announced a couple of new products.

“We now have a package for schools consisting multiple AR devices. The devices and the software add more functionalities than we had before. It generates very good data about how kids are learning, their progress and whether young adults have the right skill-sets to get a job,” Dr Sahin explained.

Another new product is called “Learning Eye”.

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In this technology, the child or adult wears light, computerised Glasses and sees and hears special feedback geared to the situation. Flickr

In this technology, a camera is placed in the classroom which is connected to a computer that runs Machine Learning (ML) algorithms.

“AWS gave us access to its new product called Deeplens months before releasing it to the public. ‘Learning Eye’ uses Deeplens’ capabilities to run ML in the classroom in order to assist teachers as well as kids,” noted Dr Sahin.

The technology can detect if a student is paying attention or not. It can also detect if a student is writing a message on his smartphone in the classroom, giving a warning to the student while alerting the teacher.

“The teacher can also assess when the student is bored and initiate an immediate feedback to improve the student’s mood. She can get entire data about what is happening in the classroom,” Dr Sahin informed.

AWS Deeplens helps the Brain Power team run deep learning models locally on the camera to analyse and take action on what it sees.

DeepLens is easy to customise and is programmable using AWS Lambda — a serverless compute service that makes it easy to build applications that respond quickly to new information.

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Augmented Reality (AR)-powered wearable computers can help those with ASD gain confidence, clarity, understanding, social integration and self-sufficiency. Flickr

“We are very serious about maintaining privacy. Video footage stays in the classroom and is never sent to Cloud. Video processing is done at the edge of the Cloud to maintain complete privacy,” Dr Sahin told IANS.

The company has also developed a method known as “Fidgetology” which rapidly quantifies body language to assess mental health or to estimate enjoyment of ads or other media.

“Fidgetology” was developed in collaboration with AWS, using the company’s Cloud-based AI, ML and computer visions tools.

Also Read-Gmail: Google Alerts its Users About the New ‘Confidential Mode’

Dr Sahin is positive that Indian schools and organisations working in the field of autism will come forward to a life-changing experience.

“We would like to expand our capabilities to India. It all depends on the desire of the people to have the new technology and empower children and adults all along the autism spectrum to teach them practical life skills,” the neurotechnology entrepreneur hoped. (IANS)

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Google Is Run Without Any Political Bias: Sundar Pichai

Google shut down its search engine in China in 2010 after China insisted on censoring search results.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies at a House Judiciary Committee hearing "examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices" on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

Google CEO Sundar Pichai insisted Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee that he runs the U.S. technology giant without political preference.

“We find that we have a wide variety of sources, including sources from the left and sources from the right. And we are committed to making sure there are diverse perspectives,” Pichai told the panel.

Pichai defended the company after accusations from Republican lawmakers that Google has developed online search algorithms to suppress conservative voices.

“There are numerous allegations in the news that Google employees have thought about doing this, talked about doing this and have done it,” Republican committee chairman Robert Goodlatte said.

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A demonstrator holds up a sign in the doorway as Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies at a House Judiciary Committee on greater transparency in Washington. VOA

Republican Congressman Lamar Smith cited a study by P.J. Media that concluded 96 percent of Google’s search results for President Donald Trump were from “liberal media outlets.”

“In fact, not a single right-leaning site appeared on the first page of search results. This doesn’t happen by accident but is baked into the algorithms. Those who write the algorithms get the results they must want and apparently management allows it.”

Smith also cited a study by “Harvard-trained psychologist” Robert Epstein that said Google’s alleged bias “likely swung” more than 2.5 million votes to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

“Google could well elect the next president with dire implications for our democracy,” Smith added.

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Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, arrives for the testimony of Google CEO Sundar Pichai about the internet giant’s privacy security and data collection, on Capitol Hill in Washington, VOA

“I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way,” Pichai said. “To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests.”

Top committee Democrat Jerry Nadler said Republican accusations of bias is “a completely illegitimate issue, which is the fantasy dreamed up by some conservatives that Google and other online platforms have an anti-conservative bias. As I’ve said repeatedly, no credible evidence supports this right-wing conspiracy theory.”

President Donald Trump is among those who have accused the company of censoring conservative content, tweeting in August that Google is “RIGGED” and that “Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out.”

‘Dragonfly’ project

Pichai’s testimony came after he angered committee members in September by declining an invitation to testify about manipulation of online services by foreign governments to influence U.S. elections.

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A smartphone and computer screen display the Google home page. Australia is one step closer to forcing tech firms to give police access to encrypted data. VOA

The CEO was also questioned about the company’s planned “Dragonfly” project, a censored search engine for China and “next generation technology” that Congressman Smith said Google is “developing on Chinese soil.”

“This news raises a troubling possibility, that Google is being used to strengthen China’s system of surveillance, repression and control,” Smith said. “We need to know that Google is on the side of the free world, and that it will provide its services free of anti-competitive behavior, political bias and censorship.”

An international group of 60 human rights and media groups submitted a letter Tuesday to Pichai, calling on him to abandon the project, warning that personal data would not be safe from Chinese authorities.

Also Read: Australia Proposes To Strengthen Regulations of Facebook, Google

Reporters Without Borders, a signatory to the letter, said China ranked 176 out of 180 countries in its Freedom of the Press Index.

Google shut down its search engine in China in 2010 after China insisted on censoring search results. (VOA)