Autistic Children Can Understand Emotions through Mobile App

Several mobile apps have been developed to help Autistic children understand emotions and how to respond to how others are behaving. The MIT Technology Review Digital Summit in San Francisco recently discussed these apps, and the technology company behind them is preparing to launch them shortly.

Affectiva, an emotion measurement technology company that grew out of MIT’s Media Lab, has developed an app to allow children to see photos of others and get a readout on that person’s emotions. Rana el Kaliouby, Chief Science Officer at Affectiva, states that one of the apps is a game which will challenge kids to match a face with the emotion that is described. A third app allows users to make music with facial expressions. For example, a smile can create happy tones, while a frown would make sad music. Rises and falls in one’s eyebrows can make a tone rise and fall, as well.

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Affectiva’s company software, called Affdex, analyzes many images of faces to clearly detect certain features, from smirks, to grimaces, to furrowed brows. Early academic research had focused on applications to aid children with Autism. The technology has also been helpful to those in marketing, as the tools were able to successfully measure responses to advertisements. Affectiva’s database currently contains more than a billion facial expressions.

Last year, Affectiva released their software to app writers for iOS, the operating system used in iPhones and iPads. As a result, Rana el Kaliouby states that the first apps are now about to launch. She states, “Autistic kids have trouble reading and understanding social clues, and people with social and emotional problems can benefit from systems that help them understand emotions. We started out with research on Autism, and we went out and did this commercial stuff”. She continues, “[but after the success], we can now take it and apply it to Autism again”.

Technology has been shown to be incredibly beneficial in educating children with Autism in recent years. For example, these apps involve visuals which offer clear explanations, as well as a good deal of repetition, which can help them learn at their own unique pace. These apps offer an individualized way of learning, and help the children feel comfortable, instead of any pressure that may disrupt their ability to learn.

The ICare4Autism International Conference will be discussing the significance of technology in various Autism educational strategies, on July 2nd in NYC. Speakers include Dr. Dana Reinecke, Assistant Professor and Chair of the Center for Applied Behavior Analysis at The Sage Colleges. Dr. Reinecke will be giving an exciting presentation titled Technology Opens Doors for Students of All Ages on the Spectrum, alongside Laura Stolfi, Director of The Achieve Degree at The Sage Colleges. To hear their presentation, please select tickets for the conference here. Early bird ticket specials are still available, so now is the best time to register! This is an Autism conference you will not want to miss!

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