Google Glass could help children with autism socialize with others | Tech Fashion

Google Glass may have failed as a high-tech fashion trend, but it’s showing promise as a tool to help children with better navigate social situations.

A new smartphone app that pairs with a Google Glass headset uses facial recognition software to give the wearer real-time updates on which emotions people are expressing. In a pilot trial, described online August 2 in npj Digital Medicine, 14 children with autism spectrum disorder used this program at home for an average of just over 10 weeks. After treatment, the kids showed improved social skills, including increased eye contact and ability to decode facial expressions.

After her 9-year-old son, Alex, participated in the study, Donji Cullenbine described the Google Glass therapy as “remarkable.” She noticed within a few weeks that Alex was meeting her eyes more often — a behavior change that’s stuck since treatment ended, she says. And Alex enjoyed using the Google Glass app. Cullenbine recalls her son telling her excitedly, “Mommy, I can read minds.” 

All the feels

A new Google Glass program can alert the wearer when someone is expressing a particular emotion (like happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise, fear or contempt) by displaying an emoticon (top) on-screen. After using the program, parents and children can review a video (bottom) of their interaction accompanied by a color-coded timeline, which indicates when the Google Glass program ID’d different emotions. 

technology to help people with autism, in Boston. A randomized controlled trial, where children are randomly assigned to receive treatment or not, could provide further insight into the therapy’s effects, Sahin says.

Wall and his team are currently working on one such experiment with 74 children ages 6 to 12.  If the Google Glass therapy performs well in future clinical trials and is cleared for widespread use, it could be a powerful learning aid for many children with autism — which affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Already, Cullenbine expects that Alex will have better relationships with people, “and that’s life changing.”

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