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Wearable Technology Google Glass Teaches Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Google Glass listens to conversations and prompts the user with an appropriate reply

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Google Glass. IANS
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Toronto, Sep 16, 2017: An app to be used with wearable technology such as Google Glass — a head-mounted display in the shape of eyeglasses — can coach children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in everyday social interactions, new research has found.

A defining feature of ASD is difficulties with social communication — which can include initiating and maintaining conversations with others.

“We developed software for a wearable system that helps coach children with autism spectrum disorder in everyday social interactions,” said Azadeh Kushki, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto in Canada.

“In this study, we show that children are able to use this new technology and they enjoy interacting with it,” Kushki added.

Children with autism spectrum disorder are often drawn to technological devices and find them highly motivating tools for delivering interventions designed to help them.

Also Read: Technology Takes a Major Leap: Self-Driving Boats May Soon Be Reality Because ‘Humans get Distracted, Humans get Tired’ 

The problem with existing technology, however, is that using human-to-computer interaction to teach social skills can have the opposite effect to its goal, in that the user becomes socially isolated.

“The interesting thing about our new technology is that we are not trying to replace human-to-human interactions; instead, we use this app to coach children who are communicating with people in real-world situations,” Kushki explained.

“Children can practice their skills outside of their normal therapy sessions and it can provide them with increased independence in everyday interactions,” Kushki added.

Kushki and her colleagues developed the app, named Holli, to be used with wearable technology such as Google Glass. It listens to conversations and prompts the user with an appropriate reply.

For example, if the user is greeted by a person who says ‘Welcome’, Holli will provide various responses to choose from, such as ‘Hey’, ‘Hello’ or ‘Afternoon’.

When Holli recognises the user’s response, the prompts disappear and Holli waits for the next exchange in conversation.

To assess the usability of the prototype software, the researchers asked a small group of children with ASD to be guided by Holli when interacting socially.

They saw that Holli could complete most conversations without error, and that children could follow the prompts to carry on a social interaction.

In fact, Holli was often able to understand what the user was saying before/he she finished saying it, which helped the conversation to flow naturally, the study said.

“This study shows the potential of technology-based intervention to help children with ASD,” Kushki said.

“These systems can be used in everyday settings, such as home and school, to reinforce techniques learned in therapeutic settings,” she added. (IANS)

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Google Helps Autistic Kids Read Facial Expressions

As autistic children interact with others, the app identifies and names their emotions through the Google Glass speaker or screen.

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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

Children with autism were able to improve their social skills by using a smartphone app paired with Google Glass — an eye-wearable device — to help them understand the emotions conveyed in people’s facial expressions, according to a pilot study.

Autism is a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact.

However, the therapy, named “Superpower Glass” developed by the researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, uses an app that provides real-time cues about people’s facial expressions to a child wearing Google Glass.

The Superpower Glass is based on applied behaviour analysis in which a clinician teaches emotion recognition using structured exercises such as flash cards depicting faces with different emotions.

Google Glass
Autistic kids can now better identify expressions. IANS

The device, which was linked with a smartphone through a local wireless network, consists of a glasses-like frame equipped with a camera to record the wearer’s field of view, as well as a small screen and a speaker to give the wearer visual and audio information.

As autistic children interact with others, the app identifies and names their emotions through the Google Glass speaker or screen.

After one to three months of regular use, parents reported that children with autism made more eye contact and related better to others.

For the study, published online in npj Digital Medicine, 14 families tested the Superpower Glass setup at home for an average of 10 weeks with three 20 minute sessions per week.

Google Glass. (Wikimedia Commons)

Also Read: Study: iPhone App Effective for Screening Toddlers With Autism

A few weeks into the trial, children began to realise that people’s faces hold clues to their feelings.

In addition, six of the 14 participants had large enough declines in their scores to move down one step in the severity of their autism classification.

This treatment could help fill a major gap in autism care due to a shortage of trained therapists, as children may have to wait as long as 18 months after an autism diagnosis to begin receiving treatment, the researchers noted. (IANS)