Hulli, is a typical prototype software application that is used in conjunction with the head-mounted optical display-Google Glass has been unveiled. It functions as a social-skills coach precisely for kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
According to a newly published study in the ‘Frontiers in Robotics and AI’ journal, this wearable technology can recognize typical conversational prompts and subsequently offer the user suitable and appropriate resultant responses. Also, it is user-friendly and enjoyable for the kids to use.
ASD is typically a lifetime condition which affects 1 in a total of 68 persons. One defining ASD feature is the difficulties that come with simple social communication such as difficulty in starting and sustaining conversations with people.
Software to Assist ASD Children in Social Interactions
According to Azadeh Kushki, a Scientist at the Toronto-based Bloorview Research Institute and an Assistant Professor based at the University of Toronto, at its Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering Institute, they built software intended for a standard wearable system which assists kids with ASD in their daily social interactions. In her statement, she reiterates that the studies they have undertaken indicate that kids are well able to employ this ground-breaking technology besides enjoying relating to it.
Besides being drawn to classic technological devices, Kids suffering from ASD find them to be significantly motivating instruments for the delivery of interventions precisely established to assist them. The problem, however, especially with current technology, is that employing human-to-computer interaction for teaching social skills may have a contrary effect to what it is intended to accomplish, and in the end, the user gradually gets socially isolated.
According to Kushki, the interesting bit about their innovative technology is that it is solely designed to coach kids and help them with their real-time communication with people rather than attempting to replace person-to-person interactions. With this app, kids can practice and work on their skills and abilities outside their usual therapy sessions subsequently providing them with improved independence in day-to-day interactions.
The professor and several colleagues created an app, called Holli, which is to be utilized in conjunction with wearable technology like Google Glass. It carefully listens to regular conversations and then prompts its user with appropriate replies.
For instance, if a person greets its user by saying ‘Welcome,’ Holli offers several appropriate responses such as ‘Hello’ or ‘Hey’ which the user can choose from. When the app recognizes the response of the user, the characteristic prompts disappear. Holli then waits for another conversational exchange.
Software Evaluation Studies
To evaluate the usability of this prototype software, researchers sampled 15 kids and asked them to use Holli when interacting with others. They identified that Holli could successfully complete most of the conversations devoid of errors. Moreover, they also discovered that kids could easily follow its prompts and in turn sustain a normal social conversation. In fact, Holli was also seen to comprehend what its user was conveying even before they completed uttering it, which assisted in the natural flow of the conversation. Other than demonstrating the feasibility of this software, the kids also indicated that they enjoyed using it-they not only liked the prompts but also enjoyed its ease of use.
The study is a clear demonstration of the underlying potential of exclusive technology-based interventions in helping kids with ASD according to Professor Kushki. What’s more, these systems can find use in daily settings like schools or homes, to underpin techniques learned by the kids in their therapeutic settings.
In the future, hope is that more developments such as altering prompt location, medium and size will facilitate customization to suit individual users to successfully cater for the varying abilities and preferences of kids. Moreover, more input is needed to enhance Holli’s capacity to deal with varying speech which can affect ASD victims adequately.
In conclusion, as the professor points out, technology has immense potential in changing how people perceive the delivery of services to ASD victims. It can enhance current face-to-face interventions and subsequently facilitate the accessibility of services in a cost-effective and timely fashion and also help improve overall treatment effectiveness.