Can head-mounted wearable devices — with built-in sensors and a heads-up display — train children with autism to detect emotions and improve attention and gaze?
Brain Power, a Boston-area start-up that draws from MIT and Harvard University research, is launching a Kickstarter in the next week to produce such a product. Their team, led by neuroscientist Ned Sahin PhD, kicked off a van tour this past week across the United States in an effort to raise grassroots awareness of their product and to help fund their product. The team will speak on autism and education, visit schools, and record video logs of parents, children, and teachers, in their “Empower US” tour.
The Brain Power app suite runs on Google Glass as a game for children to play with, which can measure performance, body metrics, and stress. It also measures facial emotions, and recognizes faces, with the Glass videocamera. Parents and teachers can use this to track symptoms of autism.
Ultimately, the app will help teach social and communication skills for those with autism spectrum disorder, a neurodevelopmental disorder with “persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction.” This, according to the DSM-5, includes a lack of facial expression, abnormal social approaches, poor verbal communication, and failure to start or reply to social cues.
This event announcement comes at the heels of speculation in July 2015 that a new version of Google Glass, the GG1, is being produced and registered with the FCC. Essentially, this “Google Glass 2.0,” could be a lighter version that — unlike the earlier beta version — will be fully ready for the market. Other reports state that the new Google Glass version will be an “Enterprise Edition” that includes a larger prism display, an Intel Atom processor, an optional external battery pack, and WiFi and Bluetooth LE.
The Brain Power app suite can be paired with other head-mounted displays, but has been most developed with Google Glass. The device, released in 2013 but discontinued in 2015, was a head-worn computer complete with speaker, microphone, head motion detection, blink detection, video and photo camera, along with WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS.
“This project underscores an enduring thread of Brain Power’s work, namely, that technology and cognitive science can alleviate human suffering and make the world a better place,” said Steven Pinker, PhD, a professor at Harvard University’s Department of Psychology.
Clinical trials for Brain Power are starting at Harvard Medical School.