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App acts as social coach


A new ‘prototype Google Glass app’ could help improve the social skills of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Named Holli it is designed to work with wearables, such as Google Glass – which are like eyeglasses, and act as a real time coach to provide conversational prompts in everyday situations. In one example, if a user meets someone who says welcome, Holli will suggest suitable responses, like hello or good afternoon.

“The interesting thing about our new technology is that we are not trying to replace human-to-human interactions; instead, we use this app to coach children who are communicating with people in real-world situations,” explains Professor Azadeh Kushki, from the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, “Children can practice their skills outside of their normal therapy sessions and it can provide them with increased independence in everyday interactions.”

In a study of 15 children with ASD, researchers found that Holli was effective in assisting them to interact more naturally and that the youngsters could follow the prompts easily and enjoyed using it.

“This study shows the potential of technology-based intervention to help children with ASD,” added Professor Kushki. “These systems can be used in everyday settings, such as home and school, to reinforce techniques learned in therapeutic settings.”

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