December 11, 2019

Google Glass May Have an Afterlife as a Device to Teach Autistic Children

“I was trying to build software that could recognize faces,” Mr. Voss said. “And I knew that there were people who struggled with that.”

At the time, the brief moment Google Glass spent in the national spotlight was already coming to an end. Google stopped selling the device to consumers amid concerns that its built-in camera would compromise personal privacy.

But Google Glass lived on as something to be used by researchers and businesses, and Mr. Voss, now a Ph.D. student, spent the next several years developing his application with Dennis Wall, a Stanford professor who specializes in autism research, and others at the university.

Their clinical trial, conducted over two years with 71 children, is one of the first of its kind. It spanned everything from severe forms of autism, including children with speech impairments and tactile sensitivities, to much milder forms. Children who used the software in their homes showed a significant gain on the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, a standard tool for tracking the behavior of those on the autism spectrum, Mr. Voss said.

The gain was in line with improvements by children who received therapy in dedicated clinics through more traditional methods. The hope is that Mr. Voss’s application and similar methods can help more children in more places, without regular visits to clinics.

“It is a way for families to, on some level, provide their own therapy,” Mr. Voss said.

Jeffrey Prickett, Esaïe’s father, said he had been drawn to the study because he had known it would appeal to his son, who enjoys using iPad apps and watching DVD movies.

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