This project is a collaborative effort between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory and the Groden Center to develop and evaluate wearable social-emotional technology that helps individuals with high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome acquire an affinity for the social domain and improve their overall social abilities. The project will develop the first wearable camera system capable of perceiving and visualizing social-emotional information in real-time human interaction. Using a small wearable camera and video-pattern analysis algorithms, the system analyzes video of the wearer or interaction partner and tags it at multiple granularities (facial actions, communicative facial or head gestures, and emotions).
The wearable system aims to: (1) facilitate learning and systemizing of social-emotional cues; (2) promote self-reflection and perspective-taking; (3) allow wearers to study subtle nonverbal cues and share experiences with peers, family members, and caregivers; and (4) contribute new computational models and theories of social-emotional intelligence in machines. A clinical study will compare the efficacy of the wearable system to current gold standard interventions for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A participatory approach to the co-design and use of technology draws on the experiences of individuals with ASD and their solutions to systematizing social interactions, thereby empowering them to enhance their relationships, while participating in the development of next-generation social-emotional intelligent technologies.
The project will make significant contributions to the difficult challenge of developing machine intelligence that is robust at handling human social interaction. When people or machines fail to perceive, understand, and act on social-emotional cues they are hindered in their ability to interact with and learn from others. The results of this interdisciplinary work can be leveraged in human-computer interaction, robotics, and technologies with social-emotional intelligence. The research will also provide investigators with a new tool to study nonverbal communication outside of laboratory settings.
This project brings together the overlapping and converging goals and challenges of autism research and affective computing, both already interdisciplinary in nature, and demonstrates how a collaboration could lead to several mutually beneficial outcomes, from developing new tools to assist people with ASD in understanding and functioning in the social-emotional world, to developing new computational models and theories that enable technology to provide an overall better experience to those who use it. This work also promotes the training and education of students and people with ASD by involving them in cutting-edge scientific research.