Google Glass app helps autistic children with social interactions

September 14, 2017, Frontiers

A prototype software application, to be used with the optical head-mounted display Google Glass, has been designed as a social-skills coach for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

A new study published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI finds that the can recognize conversational prompts and provide the user with suitable responses in return. Moreover, find it easy to operate and enjoy using it.

ASD is a life-long condition that affects 1 in 68 people. 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," says Azadeh Kushki, an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, and Scientist at the Bloorview Research Institute, Toronto, Canada. "In this study, we show that children are able to use this new and they enjoy interacting with it."

Children with autism spectrum disorder are often drawn to technological devices and find them highly motivating tools for delivering interventions designed to help them. 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 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," explains Professor Kushki. "Children can practice their skills outside of their normal therapy sessions and it can provide them with increased independence in everyday interactions."

Professor Kushki and her colleagues developed the app, named Holli, to be used with wearable technology such as Google Glass—a head-mounted display in the shape of eyeglasses. 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 recognizes 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 15 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. As well as demonstrating its feasibility, the children also said how much they liked using it; they enjoyed the prompts and found it easy to use.

"This study shows the potential of technology-based intervention to help children with ASD," says Professor Kushki. "These systems can be used in everyday settings, such as home and school, to reinforce techniques learned in therapeutic settings."

It is hoped that further developments will allow customization for individual users, such as changing prompt location, size and medium, to cater to each child's unique preference and ability. In addition, more work is needed to improve Holli's ability to deal with speech differences that can affect those with .

"Technology has tremendous potential to change the way we think about delivering services to those with ASD. It can augment existing face-to-face interventions to make services accessible in a timely and cost-effective way and help increase treatment effectiveness," concludes Professor Kushki.

Explore further: Creative dance can increase social skills in children with autism spectrum disorder

More information: Ben G. Kinsella et al, Evaluating the Usability of a Wearable Social Skills Training Technology for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Frontiers in Robotics and AI (2017). DOI: 10.3389/frobt.2017.00031

Related Stories

Creative dance can increase social skills in children with autism spectrum disorder

June 2, 2017
Researchers at the University of Utah have found the use of creative dance helps increase social play skills in children with autism spectrum disorder.

Music therapy for children with autism does not improve symptoms

August 8, 2017
Among children with autism spectrum disorder, improvisational music therapy resulted in no significant difference in symptom severity compared to children who received enhanced standard care alone, according to a study published ...

Autism and developmental coordination disorder have similarities but also sharp differences

June 29, 2017
UTA researchers are recommending in a new study that children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder should be checked for developmental coordination disorder since the two maladies are linked.

Autism severity detected with brain activity test

July 25, 2017
UCLA researchers have discovered that children with autism have a tell-tale difference on brain tests compared with other children. Specifically, the researchers found that the lower a child's peak alpha frequency—a number ...

Autistic children with better motor skills more adept at socializing

September 11, 2013
In a new study looking at toddlers and preschoolers with autism, researchers found that children with better motor skills were more adept at socializing and communicating.

Recommended for you

Epigenetics study helps focus search for autism risk factors

January 16, 2018
Scientists have long tried to pin down the causes of autism spectrum disorder. Recent studies have expanded the search for genetic links from identifying genes toward epigenetics, the study of factors that control gene expression ...

Being bilingual may help autistic children

January 16, 2018
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often have a hard time switching gears from one task to another. But being bilingual may actually make it a bit easier for them to do so, according to a new study which was recently ...

No rise in autism in US in past three years: study

January 2, 2018
After more than a decade of steady increases in the rate of children diagnosed with autism in the United States, the rate has plateaued in the past three years, researchers said Tuesday.

Autism therapy: Brain stimulation restores social behavior in mice

December 13, 2017
Scientists are examining the feasibility of treating autistic children with neuromodulation after a new study showed social impairments can be corrected by brain stimulation.

Social phobia linked to autism and schizophrenia

December 11, 2017
New Swinburne research shows that people who find social situations difficult tend to have similar brain responses to those with schizophrenia or autism.

Odors that carry social cues seem to affect volunteers on the autism spectrum differently

November 27, 2017
Autism typically involves the inability to read social cues. We most often associate this with visual difficulty in interpreting facial expression, but new research at the Weizmann Institute of Science suggests that the sense ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.