AUG 05, 2018 12:48 AM PDT

Google Glass For Autism Therapy

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Many researchers have designed innovative technological options to help children with autism improve social skills. One such research team allowed children to use a smartphone app paired with Google Glass to assist them in understanding emotions conveyed in people's facial expressions, this was according to a study published by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. In the research study published in Digital Medicine, a Stanford-designed app paired with a Google Glass becomes a therapeutic method in providing cues about other people's facial expressions. The new therapy is being referred to by researchers as “Superpower Glass” to make it more appealing to children. The therapy could build a bridge in autism care due to a shortage of trained therapists. "We have too few autism practitioners," explains the study's senior author, Dennis Wall, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics and of biomedical data science. "The only way to break through the problem is to create reliable, home-based treatment systems. It's a really important unmet need."

Affecting 1 in 59 children in the United States, Autism is a developmental disorder that has a wide range of symptoms primarily categorized under social and communication deficits with repetitive behavior. Research has shown that early autism therapy is effective, but unfortunately, many children aren't exposed to quick treatment enough to get the maximum benefit.

Essentially, the "Superpower Glass" was designed in three ways. The first way is known as "free play," in which children wear the Google Glass while interacting or playing with their families and the treatment provides the wearer with a visual or auditory cue each time it identifies an emotion on the face of someone in the field of view. The second way is a game mode known as “guess my emotion” which allows a parent to act out a facial expression corresponding to one of the eight core emotions in which their child tries to guess it. The game method assists parents and researchers in tracking children's improvement at recognizing emotions. "Parents said things like 'A switch has been flipped; my child is looking at me.' Or 'Suddenly the teacher is telling me that my child is engaging in the classroom.' It was really heartwarming and super-encouraging for us to hear," Wall said.

The third-way "capture the smile," also presented in a game mode, allows children to give another person clues about the emotion they want to present until the other person acts the emotion out. This also helps the researchers gauge the children's progress in interpreting different emotions. After completion of the randomized trial of the therapy, researchers plan to examine the treatment in children who have just been diagnosed and are on the waiting list for treatment.

Stanford University has filed a patent application for the technology.

Source: Stanford Medicine, Digital Medicine, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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