Google Glass App Aims To Help Children With Autism Understand Emotions

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Google Glasses are being used in a new study to help children with autism recognize the facial expressions that they often struggle with most.

The experimental new app, which was developed by researchers at Stanford University, records and analyzes facial expressions in real time, alerting the user to the emotions of those he or she is interacting with.

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“We had the idea of basically creating a behavioral aide that would recognize the expressions and faces for you and then give you social cues according to those,” Stanford student Catalin Voss told the Associated Press. Voss, who developed the device with Nick Haber, was partly inspired by a cousin with autism.

While the device helps developing kids to recognize the emotions of others, the main objective of the glasses is to help these children learn how to recognize such subtle cues on their own. In that way, the glasses look to update the current method in use, where therapists use simple flashcards. Voss and her fellow researchers hope that the glasses will eventually offer families an inexpensive and convenient way to aide kids through the learning process.

Where the glasses improve over flashcards is in their real life functionality. Instead of pictures, the wearer sees the faces of their friends and family as they go throughout their day. When facial expressions change, an icon appears in the glasses along with the word for the corresponding emotion, aiding the child in the moment and helping them learn for the future.

Director of the Stanford School of Medicine’s Wall Lab, Dennis Wall, explained the benefits he saw in the “autism glass,” saying that, “There are many kids in need and there are too few practitioners to provide the care that these kids need… We can reach rural populations, diverse socioeconomic groups. We can go global.”

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“The autism glass program is meant to teach children with autism how to understand what a face is telling them. And we believe that when that happens they will become more socially engaged,” he continued.

The study, which is still in its early phases, is working with about 100 children from ages 6 to 17, and, according to Wall, is showing positive results so far.

“There’s not a machine that can read your mind, but this helps with the emotions, you know, recognizing them,” Julian Brown, a 10-year-old from San Jose, California participating in the study, said to AP.

Julian’s mother, Kristen is feeling similarly heartened. “It has helped our son who’s using the Google Glasses connect with the family more,” she said. “I think the glasses are a positive way to encourage a kid to look someone else in the face.”

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And, while the device is a few years from reaching the public, where roughly one in 68 American children suffer from autism, the Stanford team is hoping that the glasses might be covered by insurance, making them especially affordable for the families in greatest need.

For their dedication to bringing positive, innovative assistance to young children in need we are proud to name Catalin Voss, Nick Haber, Dennis Wall, and the rest of the team behind “autism glass” our Luminaries of the week.



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About the author: Gary Joshua Garrison


Gary Joshua Garrison is the Prose Editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review. His fiction has appeared in various locations around the World Wide Web, as well as in bound reams of paper. His nonfictional musing can be found at Luminary Daily and Way Too Indie. He writes, teaches, and goes to the movies in the desert of Arizona with his well-postured cat, Widget.



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