Researchers in Georgia have developed two new tools designed to better understand and detect autism, including a system that uses glasses to track where children look and facial-analysis software to identify when a child makes eye contact with the person wearing the glasses.
That device, developed at Georgia Tech's Center for Behavior Imaging,
uses a commercially available pair of glasses that records the focal
point of their wearer's gaze. In a study at the school's Child Study Lab,
researchers took video of a child captured by a front-facing camera on
the glasses, which were worn by an adult interacting with the child. The
video was then processed using facial-recognition software. The result
is a system able to detect eye contact in an interaction with a
22-month-old with 80 percent accuracy, the university said. Here's a
video of what this looks like:
Children at risk for autism often avoid making eye contact. Discovering an automated way to detect this characteristic and other distinct behavioral markers could be a significant step toward scaling autism screening up to much larger populations than those currently reached, Georgia Tech researchers said. Working on this tool and another are the goals of a grant from the National Science Foundation Expeditions program that Georgia Tech received in 2010.