Researchers at Stanford University in the US are using special glasses to help autistic children recognise and classify emotions.
The so-called ‘Autism Glass’ analyses facial expressions – and instantly gives the user an indication of the emotion.
Researchers say the aim is to boost the confidence of users, when they are in social settings.
“The Autism Glass programme is meant to teach children with autism how to understand what a face is telling them, period,” explained Dennis Wall, Wall Lab director at Stanford University School of Medicine.
“And we believe that when that happens they will become more socially engaged, and as a consequence of that gain confidence in social settings. The access to care is too limited.
“So kids with autism are not getting enough of the care that they need, for as long as they need it in the United States and we need to fix the problem.”
Reading emotions is one of the biggest challenges for those with autism, like Julian Brown.
He is wearing the Autism Glass technology for an hour a day, while interacting with family members.
The software runs on Google Glass, the computerised eyewear developed by Google.
“There’s not a machine that can read your mind. But this helps with the emotions, you know, recognising them,” said Julian.
Stanford student Catalin Voss and researcher Nick Haber developed the software to analyse faces.
Software that recognises our common emotions – such as happy, angry, sad and surprised.
“We had the idea of basically creating a behavioural aide that would recognise the expressions and faces for you and then give you social cues according to those,” said Voss.
Julian is one of a hundred or so autistic children taking part in the Stanford University study.
The idea is to develop the Autism Glass into an affordable and convenient therapy which families can use at home.
Julian’s mother is encouraged by the research and thinks it has great potential.
“I think the glass is a great way to get kids to relate better, to not just their family but to the peers around them,” said Kristen Brown.
“If they can break that barrier, then man oh man, these high-functioning kids, you wouldn’t feel like labeling them so much.”
Future work will allow researchers to improve the software and techniques – using a widening set of data.
If the results are positive, the product could be commercially available within a few years.
Cutting-edge technology which has the potential to change the lives of Julian and others with autism.