Can Google Glass Help Those with Autism?
Is the much-hyped Google Glass wearable technology really done? The Google Glass website only has a cryptic message: “Thanks for exploring with us. The journey doesn't end here.” But the belief held by some is that Project Glass hasn’t shut down permanently, it’s under construction.
One work in progress comes from a Cambridge start-up called Brain Power that’s attempting to use Google Glass to help those on the autism spectrum who may have difficulty learning and interacting. The CDC estimates that 1 in 68 children (or 14.7 per 1,000 eight-year-olds) in the US has been identified with autism spectrum disorder. Brain Power is developing technology for Google Glass and the emerging wearables market that focuses on four challenges many children on the autism spectrum face: difficulty with social interactions, speech delay, learning to control certain behaviors, and help with recognizing and forming abstract groupings.
The company says its software works with neuroscience research and technology developed at MIT and Harvard to provide coaching and a “gamified experience.” Brainpower’s founder and CEO Ned Sahin holds degrees in neuroscience from MIT (Master’s) and Harvard (PhD) and completed post-doctoral fellowships at UCSD Medical School and the Salk Institute in San Diego.
In a Google keynote, Sahin explains how a child is encouraged to use eye contact while wearing the glasses. The face of a popular cartoon is superimposed over the face of another person near the child. If the child looks at the face, they earn points, like in a video game. “We’re making the game of life a little more fun and engaging,” says Sahin. The autism apps have been featured in The Boston Globe, Wired, CBS News, TechCrunch, and other media.
In the commentary “Why Google Glass Broke,” The New York Times detailed much of the backstory behind the technology’s premature hype and struggles that ultimately resulted in its hiatus. Maybe this use of wearable technology will be more successful (and worthwhile) than appearances on the runways at fashion shows.
Clinical trials for the new technology will begin this fall at Harvard Medical School. Brain Power hopes to begin releasing the product in the near future. To join the beta test program click here.