Combining art and engineering to help children with autism

>>Chesney: It’s essentially a virtual coloring book.
Picture a big screen it has been calling book images on it,
and then a child can come up and press on it, and as they press on it it essentially is coloring in the image. So
you color it by scraping your hand over the top of it
and then you can press into it to change the tone of the color. The research that I do here at the
University of Michigan is at the intersection of technology and childhood disability. So basically what we do is we use a
different technology every semester in the class and then I
work with a specific disability and you know what the issues are related
to that and then we try to address that over the course of the semester. So the project that we had the pleasure
of working on this semester I worked with Doctor Sean Ahlquist from art and
architecture, and Doctor Sile O’Modhrain from school
music and essentially we’re trying to do is
come up with a project that we could use for Doctor Ahlquist’s five-year-old daughter who is on the
autism spectrum disorder.>>Alquist: Often there can be a a challenge for
children with autism that they don’t understand the amount of pressure that they are
applying to do certain tasks therefore they can often use an
inappropriate amount of pressure whether it’s too much pressure or too little
pressure. With this technology and this was really
a kind of starting point, the textile which can be designed as a
stretchable surface we can use that as a kind of gradation
of input. So not just sensing when it’s touched
but sensing how much force is being applied with each individual touch.>>Chesney: It’s almost spring-loaded but the
springy-ness, the elasticity is what’s what’s sewn into the material,
and has you press in it changes the color. Behind the screen is a projector projecting the image on the screen and
then there’s also Microsoft Kinect sensor measuring the depth of pressure, and
that’s what changes the spectrum of color.>>Alquist: In collaborating with the engineers I
mean I I think it was a really exciting process. I mean certainly there’s challenges in terms of engaging two very different
skill sets. Finding the common ground for
these two diverse fields to come together I
think was a bit of a challenge but for this project it ended up working out in quite an exciting way.
>>Chesney: Essentially students in the class were trying to come up with different
devices to help with collaborative play, interaction between parent-child. Per
semester that this course is taught we come up with you know, 15 things that
might help and then we show it to the people who it
might help and they say you know thumbs up, thumbs sideways, or
thumbs-down. My students are software developers we try to learn a little bit from
medical professionals and then in a lot of ways were just throwin
spaghetti against the wall. There’s this common phrase that I when you’ve
met one child with autism you’ve met exactly one child or one person with
autism.>>Alquist: The issues are very very unique and very
hard to translate from individual to individual. So what i think
is really valuable with this research not only the project but
I think also this methodology of research is that you know we’re developing tools that are made to be tuned to and an individual child when the electronic devices dissipating lot
of heat and if the heat can’t escape That means the electronic device gets very hot,
and when it gets hot its performance suffers and it also can
have a a reduced lifetime. we invented a way

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