Apps to help autistic kids learn social skills

A US-based start-up is developing Google Glass apps and hardware add-ons that can help autistic kids learn social and communication skills, while also providing feedback to caregivers. 

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup called Brain Power was founded by neuroscientist Ned T Sahin, who did his graduate training at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Since the autism disorder spectrum is so wide, Brain Power is initially focusing on children with moderate to high-functioning autism, though it hopes to extend its apps' capabilities to other kids, Tech Crunch reported. 

So far, 200 people have signed up for Brain Power's beta programme, which will be conducted in three stages next year. 

Sahin believes Google Glass is ideal for helping kids with autism because it has an accelerometer chip that enables head gestures, which Brain Power uses to track when kids look or don't look at their parents, as well as stereotypy, or the repetitive movements which many people with autism make. 

"In this way, we can provide numerical, objective, repeatable assessment of a child's current behaviours, as well as progress over time," Sahin said. 

Brain Power's Google Glass apps - Empowered Brain Suite for Autism- encourages kids to interact with their parents and make eye contact by presenting exercises like a game. The apps have "social engagement module monitors" that assess how a child engaged with parents, Sahin said. 

The software also helps kids interpret people's expressions through a series of games. "It has often surprised parents how quickly their children have adapted to Google Glass," Sahin said. 

Other areas the suite will tackle include language. When a child looks at something through Google Glass, the object is identified and its name displayed and spoken through the Glass's earbud.