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#TechThursdays - New Google Glass Intervention helps kids with autism develop better social skills

On #TechThursdays we look at how a new smartphone app paired with Google Glass could help children with autism understand emotions conveyed through facial expressions.

Technology is helping children with disabilities become empowered and feel independent. A new smartphone app that when paired with Google Glass could help children with autism understand emotions conveyed through facial expressions. This is significant as children on the spectrum lack the skills needed to analyse expressions, and this is critical for education and other daily tasks. This could help bridge that gap.

The app is the brainchild of a ream of researchers from Stanford University in the United States. Google Glass, which is worn like a headset, provides augmented reality with sound on a miniature screen. The smart system of the eye wear coupled with mobile phone-based games claims to help the child understand facial expressions.

There is a camera inside the device that will help parents monitor the child's activities. The team says that Google Glass has been successfully tested on children with autism. We asked a few experts working in the field of autism in India how they felt about the device and the responses were mixed.

Seema Lal, Co-founder of parent support group TogetherWeCan feels the effectiveness of the device will only be known through lived experiences.

I would day it is a good thing as long as a device helps in the transformation of real life living skills. The success of this device is done through standardised tests and not through lived experiences over a period of time. Then how do we know the real effect? Children will definitely enjoy a virtual game because that is easy and can be played in the comfort zones of their homes. Are these really giving them skills to cope in real life?- Seema Lal, Co-Founder, TogetherWeCan.

The team says the device will help children remain in their present world and not take them away. The camera inside the devices detects scared, happy, sad, angry, disgusted, surprised and neutral emotions, which are conveyed to the child. The glasses can be connected to the smartphone without any wires and hence makes things easier for parents.

Some experts say a device like Google Glass will helps parents reach out to the child sitting inside their homes.

"Most children with autism have social dysfunction as they avoid eye contact. This can aggravate if they perceive certain tone of voice or touch which they feel are threatening, says special educator Nandita Paul Saxena. She says the Google Glass tool could help children to understand emotions better and even facilitate better learning outcome. "It will help them to fit into different social situations in a comfortable manner.

The team behind the device is working on enhancing the features. What makes it so promising is the responses from the participants involved in the project. Many say it is helping them understand their friend better. Families have called the system "engaging, useful and fun. More importantly, their children are willing to wear the Google Glass.

ALSO READ: Google's new project to use artificial intelligence to accommodate speech impairments

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