The history of invention is awash with products which found fame for a purpose which they were not originally intended. Play-Doh was invented as a wallpaper cleaner but gained mass appeal as a malleable child’s toy. Bubble wrap was intended to decorate walls but found its true purpose protecting delicate items. The gluey strip on handy Post-It notes was originally intended to join aircraft parts together.
Google Glass was designed to augment a user’s view of the world with real-time information delivered visually through a pair of technologically-advanced spectacles. While intended as a mainstream product, the device failed to seize the imagination of the consumer and also raised significant privacy concerns. This led to its withdrawal from sale. However, The New York Times reported this week that Google Glass may have found its niche – helping individuals with autism successfully navigate through a sometimes unwelcoming and often confusing world.
The article is based on research from Stanford University. Their research lasted two years and studied 71 children with autism. They concluded that Google Glass could potentially help them recognise facial expressions in others and what those expressions meant. Individuals with autism often struggle to pick up on the nuances of social interaction such as facial expressions, variance of tone and intention. However, with Google Glass, users enhanced their understanding of how other people were feeling and how this impacted on their verbal communication. It also increased the likelihood of an autistic individual maintaining eye contact with others – another common communication barrier.
While augmented-reality technology for those with autism is still in its infancy, there are assistive-technology products available today which promote better communication, organisation and reduce the potential for anxiety. At Concept Northern, leaders in assistive-technology provision and training, we’ve introduced many people with autism to the benefits of using “Brain in Hand” – a cloud-based software service which helps people remember activities, mitigate stress and feel safe. Accessed via a smartphone, users can plan their day, implement coping strategies and access support services when and where they need it.
For an activity such as taking a train, users can input potential problems and associate them with trusted solutions. That ensures they know exactly what to do should the problem arise. For example, if the train was late, the user could look at the app and find exactly out what to do instead of worrying about what to do. Users can also contact a specialist advisor or support contact directly via the app to ask for further advice.
Using tools like “Brain in Hand”, combined with specialist training and support, individuals with autism have the opportunity to develop, grow and prosper. Hopefully, in time Google Glass may help others achieve similar, highly-desirable outcomes.
For more information about “Brain in Hand” and what we can do to help individuals with autism, please call 01355 573173, or email – firstname.lastname@example.org.