Google Glass to help autistic kids with social interactions
Children with autism may be better able to understand facial expressions and improve their social skills by using a Google Glass headset and smartphone app, a small pilot study suggests.

The prototype tool, called Superpower Glass, uses games to help children recognize faces and emotions while interacting with family and friends.

Children with autism spectrum disorder struggle to recognize facial expressions, make eye contact and engage in social interactions, but many can improve dramatically if social skills are taught from an early age, Dennis Wall’s team notes in NPJ Digital Medicine.

The researchers developed Superpower Glass, a machine-learning-assisted software system that runs on the Google Glass headset and an Android smartphone. The software recognizes eight emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, distrust, surprise, fear, neutral and contempt (or “meh” in child-friendly terms). Games such as Capture the Smile and Guess the Emotion guide children through facial and emotional recognition by displaying emoticons on the monitor or speaking audibly.

The research team provided the prototype to 14 families and asked them to complete three or more 20-minute sessions per week over one to four months. The kids were assessed before and after the study period with tests measuring social responsiveness, facial recognition, eye contact and social acuity. Researchers also asked the parents for feedback on how engaging, useful and fun the prototype was.

Overall, 12 of the 14 families said they noticed an increase in eye contact by their child, and six children moved to a less severe classification of autism. The assessments also showed improvements in recognizing intent, social interaction, social initiation, eye contact and accurate labeling of emotions after kids used the tool.

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