Google Glass Apps Could Help Kids With Autism

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While many people think that Google Glass is a novelty items for techies and those with more than $1000 to spend, a Massachusetts startup believes that the device could have benefits for children with autism.

Brain Power, which is based in Cambridge, is developing applications, known as the Empowered Brain Suite for Autism, that include displaying cartoon characters on Google Glass lenses. For example, when a child with autism is looking at an adult, a character from the Disney movie “Frozen” would pop up. When the child makes eye contact with the adult, the image disappears, and they earn points, just like in a video game.

The purpose of the app is to help kids learn to look at faces and make eye contact, a problem for many autistic kids.

“We are designing tools to coach children..to make eye contact, increase connection to those around them, and unleash the potential of their brain,” Ned Sahim, Brain Power’s founder and a neuroscientist, told BetaBoston.

Other apps as part of the Brain Suite include a language program that works when a child looks at an object while wearing Google Glass. The device will identify the object and the app will display the name of it, as well as speak it through a speaker or earbud.

Next month, a clinical trial of the apps’ usefulness with Google Glass will begin at Harvard Medical School.

Google Glass Apps Could Help Kids With Autism
Google Glass Apps Could Help Kids With Autism

Can technology help children with autism accomplish what other educational efforts have not? Ned Sahin aims to find out.

Sahin founded Brain Power, a Cambridge startup that is using Google Glass to teach children with autism how to better engage and socialize with people. Brain Power is developing applications that display images of popular cartoon characters on the screen of Google Glass, so that when an autistic child looks at an adult talking to him, an image from, say “Angry Birds” or “Frozen” pops up.

The goal is to draw kids' attention to faces. When they turn their heads to make eye contact, the cartoon goes away and the face is revealed, and they can earn points, as they would in a video game.

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