Many kids on the spectrum face challenges outwardly expressing their emotions, Rosalind Picard, ScD of the MIT Media Lab told a crowd of parents and professionals during her presentation, the third in KiDA’s Innovation Series. And this is why Picard and her colleagues – including Innovation Series speaker Matthew Goodwin – have spent years creating technology to help read and examine the emotional states of those who may be unable to communicate them. The multimedia presentation was titled “Advances in Personalized Technology for Autism, Emotion, Sleep and Seizures”.
Picard discussed wireless wristbands whose sensors measure the electricity being conducted through the skin to determine the state of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight-or-flight response in humans. These wristbands show, in real time, the levels of emotional stress and arousal of individuals whose appearance on the outside may differ from what they’re feeling inside. She also revealed a newly discovered benefit: The wristbands may accurately alert others to early signs of severe seizures in children. Data collected from the sensors showed that seizures can be preceded by huge spikes in skin conductance arousal. More than 25 percent of kids with ASD have seizures, said Picard.
Picard then talked about how the sensors can test the depth of sleep and sleep patterns of children with autism – an important issue, as more than half of parents report that their kids on the spectrum have sleep problems, she said. The wristbands measure the arousal kids have while trying to fall asleep and the level they have in deep sleep.
Picard also touched on other types of technology being developed in her lab, including how researchers are teaching computers to read the expressions on peoples’ faces, such as those indicating concentration, disagreement and confusion. This technology could eventually go a long way toward helping people with autism spectrum disorders better process the emotions of themselves and others.
About Rosalind Picard, ScD:
Professor Rosalind W. Picard, Sc.D. is leader of the Autism & Communication Technology Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group at the MIT Media Laboratory, and co-director of the Things That Think Consortium, the largest industrial sponsorship organization at the lab . She is co-founder, chief scientist and chairman of Affectiva, Inc., which makes technology to measure and communicate emotion. Picard holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT. She joined the MIT Media Lab faculty in 1991.