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Finally, The Perfect Use For Google Glass: Helping Kids With Autism Identify Emotions

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Google makes a groundbreaking moment when the Google Glass was finally launched.

Finally, the first true wearable technology that actually works, complete with voice search and artificial intelligence tricks has arrived.

Google Glass is just one of the many products to come out of Google X, a facility within the company specializing in more experimental projects. It is a pair of glasses with specialized sensors that can show a live heads-up display. Google wanted to create a device that offers a true, hands-free experience, and it, in fact, it offered prototypes to early adopters in 2013 for $1,500.

Excitement fizzled out shortly thereafter. The device's high costs, plus limited participation from developers, greatly hampered its progress. Google resurrected Glass last year by making the device sleeker, with a focus on assisting in the workplace.

Scientists, however, have found an entirely new application for Google Glass: helping kids with autism better navigate social situations.

How Google Glass Helps Kids With Autism

Autism, for those uninitiated, is a developmental disorder that impairs a lot of crucial interactional aspects, including language, communication, and social skills.

Thanks to Google Glass, a team of researchers developed a therapy routine using facial recognition software that notifies the wearer what emotion people are expressing. They named the program Superpower Glass and published their paper in the journal npj Digital Medicine on Aug. 2.

Their pilot test involved 14 children with autism spectrum disorder that used the system at home. The goal is to help children improve their social skills while still young, and hopefully aid their social development during the formative years and much later.

Superpower Glass

The glasses, paired with the software, record what the children are seeing and send that data to a smartphone app. The app then prompts the child to engage with what they are seeing.

The software features a game-like interface that motivates children to engage with people's faces and emotions. Also, it provides positive reinforcement if they do, as NBC News reports.

Three games are onboard: free play, where the child tries to identify faces and reactions in an unstructured way and is given feedback afterward; capture the smile, where children are asked to find a person showing a certain facial expression; and guess the emotion, where kids try to determine the facial expression they're seeing. Children generally play these games with a parent or caregiver.

"It's an opportunity for fun and engagement. It creates an interaction opportunity for families that might not have happened otherwise," according to Dennis Wall, lead author of the study.

After the program, 12 families of the 14 children reported positive results with regard to eye contact, according to the researchers. The trial is a staggering achievement for autism treatment, and could even be implemented into mainstream therapies in the future.

Families with autistic kids often find it difficult to find the right therapist to work with their children. Not only is the Google Glass method effective, it could also make treatments more accessible. Still, much work needs to be done, however.

"We have to see if it's effective beyond traditional treatment in a meaningful way," according to Thomas Frazier, chief science officer at Autism Speaks.

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