Over the past few years, technology has given educators and the parents of autistic children tools they could never have imagined before. Mobile apps and games help kids learn communication skills, while virtual reality can potentially teach them how to cope in different social situations. Many of these tools are created by independent developers, but as autism diagnoses increase, large companies have also begun focusing on the neurodevelopmental disorder.
The latest tech company to come out with an autism tool is Samsung, which just released Look At Me, an Android app that it claims can help kids learn how to better maintain eye contact, something that many people with autism have difficulty doing.
The app’s launch comes a few weeks after Google and advocacy group Autism Speaks announced MSSNG , a project seeking to develop the world’s largest database of sequenced genomic information from people with autism spectrum disorder and their families, which will be stored on Google Cloud Platform and made accessible to scientists for use in their research. (MSSING was previously known as The Autism Speaks Ten Thousand Genomes Program). Meanwhile, Microsoft has offered coverage for applied behavior analysis to employees’ children since 2001.
While these initiatives certainly help bring tech companies good PR, they are also important because autism spectrum disorders remain poorly understood despite the growing number of diagnoses and many treatments and services are still prohibitively expensive for families and schools.
Look At Me, which is now available on Google Play, was developed by doctors and professors from Seoul National University Bundag Hospital and Yonsei University Department of Psychology. The app uses photos, facial recognition tech, and a series of games to help kids read emotions and communicate with other people. The team behind Look At Me conducted a clinical trial with 20 children for eight weeks, and claim that 60 percent of kids tested showed improvement in making eye contact.