Technical feasibility

SECTION 1: Testing

1 Has the R & D result been tested? YES
1a In what mode has the result been tested?  

•           Prototype

•           Pilot Application

•           Alpha/BETA testing

The pilot application of the R&D result took place in a specialized school for people with autism. The school numbers approximately 50 persons with autism, ranging from 8 to 30 years of age, but mostly children.
1b. Please describe and discuss the testing results
Educators believe that the variety and the quality of the content that is represented by the software are able to support the educational approach that the research team followed. Moreover, the evaluation of the results on this survey indicates that in most of the cases the system encourages the autistic person. A more interesting finding is the persuasion of the educators that the system is able not only to provide but also to motivate social activities among the autistic persons and collaboration in term of groups. In addition, the level of creativity is increasing in most of the cases.

SECTION 2: Current Stage of Development

2a To what extent does the development team have technical resources for supporting the production of a new product? (Researchers, human resources, hardware, etc
Since 1990, The Lab of Medical Informatics (LOMI) at AUTH has evolved into one of the major research and development centres in the field of Medical Informatics and Biomedical Engineering both in the Greek and European arena. LOMI has been very active in the fields of biomedical processing of brain and heart signals, medical database development, modelling of brain and cardiac electrophysiological processes, and telematics in health-care. 

Relevant experience also includes:

Home care pilot studies, vital parameters human based identification, decision support systems and data mining, Software Agents, medical image processing, Physiological measurements (hypoxia, alertness), Physiological Computing and Interactive Interfaces(evaluation methodologies, emotional intelligence, affective computing), affective and assistive technologies for the disabled and the elderly, as well as, e-learning, collaborative learning and content sharing in medical education.

LOMI has participated in a number of European projects from ESPRIT II and FP5 IST for health as well as FP6 IST. The lab has also participated in the e-Ten (e-health) projects and has been the subcontractor for numerous other projects and organisations. Last but not least, numerous e-learning on health projects have been successfully completed by the lab team members (CrossborderHealth/INTERREG CBC and IntraMEDnet/INTERREG ARCHIMED,WideMEDnet/INTERREG ARCHIMED), as well as a project (AFFECTION) on affective computing and emotional understanding, in collaboration with The RIKEN Brain Science Institute of Japan. The Lab acts as a leading organization in Continuing Medical Education and is now coordinating an eContentPlus project on Multi-type Content Repurposing and Sharing in Medical Education (mEducator) and an ICT PSP project on Ambient Assisted Living, Long Lasting Memories (LLM).

 

2b What are the technical issues that need to be tackled for full deployment, if needed?
There are no technical issues to be tackled for full deployment.

 

2c What additional technical resources are needed for the production of this new product?
  • Distributed server system
  • Day time support line
  • Offline/online support

 

2d Overall assessment of the current stage of technical development.
The product, based on various interaction procedures, enhances the educational process of autistic children. It is considered technically as fairly mature and constitutes a stable working environment which has undergone testing through a pilot study.

SECTION 3: Deployment

3a Define the demands for large scale production in terms of
  • Materials
no materials
  • technologies, tools, machineries
a general purpose PC and  Internet
  • Staff effort
minimum staff effort

SECTION 4: Overall Assessment

1 This new system has been proven to be well designed and effective for people – especially children – with Autism. The results indicate that the system is designed to be user – friendly  and easy-learning, rendering it a powerful tool for the educators and parents of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

KEYWORDS QUANTITATIVE ASSESSMENT (0-5)

Please put X as appropriate. 1 2 3 4 5
Adequacy of testing activity undertaken so far X
Adequacy and availability of technical resources of the development team X
Current development stage X
Overall technical feasibility X

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Description

Autism disorder is known to be characterized by a “triad of impairments” :

  • The primary one is the social impairment : an autistic person has difficulties in relating to other people.
  • A second one is the communication impairment : both verbal and non-verbal communication channels are hard to be understood and used by people with autism.
  • Finally, there exists rigidness in thinking, language and behaviour. It is agreed that the common traits of autism are abnormal reaction to input stimuli, lack of human engagement and inability to generalize between environments.

Autism is seen as a mental disability rather than a psychiatric illness and as such it requires a particular education process than can assist autistic persons in learning basic social, communication and reasoning skills. Education can be used as a tool to help autistic persons to cope with the “theory of mind deficit – difficulty in understanding mental states of others and ascribing them to themselves or others”. Successful autism “treatments” using educational interventions have been reported even a decade ago.

The proposed platform intends to enhance or mediate the teacher-child educational process. It is based on various interaction procedures according to the disability level of the autistic person in question. Several modules comprise the platform. Each of them represents a specific learning domain. Namely, there are modules where the child is asked to identify the correct image between two or more images, to put images in the correct sequence (according to time), identify emotions by visual expressions etc.

Furthermore, the more complex modules are in the form of semi-virtual environments. They provide the child with the ability to interact in a safe and controlled way. The theme of each module varies from objects in the normal surroundings, everyday use objects, colours, words etc. The instructions are given either by an affective avatar, synthesized speech in autistic person’s native language (in the specific example – Greek), written in the screen, by the corresponding makaton symbol or a combination of these.

Additionally, the avatar can express emotions depending on the situations, e.g. happiness when the correct image is selected, sadness if not. The instructions and the difficulty level can be personalised for each user. User input/feedback is facilitated by means of a mouse interaction, a touch screen or large buttons attached to the computer.

Equally important function of the platform is the recording of the interaction/education process in a database. Consequently, the educators are enabled with track record of the users’ progress and modify the difficulty levels accordingly. Additionally, an educator may register specific educational or personality data for each autistic person. The printable format of all the records enables easy monitoring and analysis of the learning process. In this way, a longitudinal record may be achieved indicating a ” learning curve”  for each autistic person separately, thereby enhancing and normalizing the educational procedures toward each person’s needs.

 

 

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