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STTR Phase I: An immersive gaze-controlled video game to help children on the autism spectrum improve their eye contact, emotion recognition, and joint attention skills
Contact: John Herrington
Type: Domestic Nonprofit Research Organization
The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I project is to improve the way educators and therapists teach social skills to children who are on the autism spectrum (as well as those affected by other social skills disorders) and deliver cost efficiencies that could expand access to such support across diverse socioeconomic classes and geographical regions. These advances have potential to produce meaningful quality-of-life improvements for these children in areas such as employability, educational attainment, and personal relationships. Given that there are ~900K children on the spectrum in the US alone, and that the rate of diagnosis has been rising in recent years, the technology has significant potential for impact. It also has significant commercial potential: the US special education and therapy market is estimated at over 8 billion dollars, and feedback from therapists and educators has indicated significant commercial demand for a product like this. In addition, by pushing the frontiers of video game-based training by incorporating real-time eye tracking data, the proposed project will expand scientific and technological understanding of how video games can be used to shape human behavior. The proposed project involves furthering the development and evaluation of a video game designed to help children on the autism spectrum improve their social skills?a significant and growing need. Key development activities include (1) adding multiple types of gaze-controlled social skill training exercises, namely those targeting emotion recognition and joint attention; (2) incorporating a low-cost, consumer-grade eye tracker; (3) building an automated feedback system to ensure proper player positioning relative to the eye tracker; and (4) refining adaptive algorithms to personalize game difficulty and maximize engagement. These features will be designed and implemented by a diverse team with expertise in video game development, autism research, and technology commercialization. Evaluation will consist of tracking performance against quantitatively measurable success metrics related to game playability and engagement via human subject research across 10 participants (50 gameplay sessions). The expected result is a video game that addresses multiple social skill deficits, engages the target demographic, and can be deployed by therapists, educators, and parents in a cost-effective manner.
* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *