STEVE FISCH/STANFORD SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

New AI eyewear will help kids with autism read peoples emotions

by | August 23, 2018

Revolutionary google glasses worn by children with autism will help them read the emotions of people around them. The new version of Google Glass was released last year, and recently researchers have discovered a new way they can be used, helping kids on the scale navigate social situations.

Autism is a developmental disorder that sometimes hinders a person’s ability to communicate or read certain social situations. According to a report published in the journal npj Digital Medicine, the researchers developed a therapy routine pairing Google Glass with facial recognition software that notifies the device wearer on which emotions people are expressing.

After her son Alex, now 9, participated in the study, Donji Cullenbine described the Google Glass therapy as “remarkable.” She noticed within a few weeks that Alex, who was 7 years old at the time, was meeting her eyes more often — a behavior change that’s stuck since treatment ended, she says. Cullenbine said her son was so excited, telling her, “Mommy, I can read minds.”

Children learn how to read facial cues by those around them growing up, yet children with autism learn through therapy, through activities and exercises. Therapists that specialize in autism are in short supply, leaving some children on the waiting lists for over a year in some cases, which hinders their ability to  ‘catch up’. 

Autism

Dennis Wall, a biomedical data scientist specializing in pediatrics at Stanford University, and colleagues built the new Google Glass program to offer children with autism at-home, on-demand behavioral therapy. The headset’s camera records the faces of people in the child’s field of view and feeds that information to a smartphone app. The app, trained on hundreds of thousands of face photos, is designed to recognize eight core expressions: happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise, fear, contempt, and calm. When the app recognizes an expression of one of these feelings, it sends the information to the Google Glass wearer — either by naming the emotion through the headset speaker or by displaying an emoticon on a small screen in the corner of the right spectacle frame according to Science News.

Future for Autism 

The team is currently studying children aged six through twelve with the glasses, and if the study has a positive outcome. They could be cleared for widespread use in the future for children with autism. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism affects one in fifty-nine children in the United States. 

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Julie Nealon

Associate Editor, New York USA | Contactable via [email protected]

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