Emotiplay - a Virtual Environment for Emotion Recognition and Expression Learning

Friday, May 13, 2016: 10:00 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
S. Fridenson-Hayo1, S. Berggren2, O. Atzmon3, A. Lassalle4, N. Meir-Goren3, S. Tal1, S. Newman3, S. Baron-Cohen4, S. Bolte2 and O. Golan1, (1)Department of Psychology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel, (2)Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Pediatric Neuropsychiatry Unit, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, (3)Compedia, Ramat-Gan, Israel, (4)Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Background: Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) experience difficulties communicating their own emotions and recognizing the emotions of others. It has been shown that virtual computerized environments can produce simplified versions of the socio-emotional world, reduce sensory stimulation, and support a featured-based learning style of socio-emotional cues, gradually integrating them into a holistic picture. EmotiPlay is a technology initiative that draws on the results of a 3-year EU-funded project called ASC-Inclusion, aimed at developing a virtual world for emotion learning.

Objectives: (1)To demonstrate the advancements of the technology of the virtual environment designed to teach children with ASD how to understand, recognize, and express emotions. (2) To present results of three clinical trials evaluating the environment in the UK, Israel and Sweden.

Methods: The program is embedded in a virtual world and includes highly engaging elements, aimed at enhancing the child's motivation, including games, animation, video and audio clips, rewards, a child's avatar, and communication with smart agents and peers. The system combines several state-of-the art technologies in one comprehensive environment, including computerized analysis of users’ gestures, facial and vocal expressions. The evaluations included 6-9 year olds with high functioning ASD who used the environment for 8-12 weeks. Evaluations included face, voice, body, and integrative emotion recogntion tasks, as well as SRS and vineland socialization measures. In the UK, 18 children were tested before and after using the sytstem. In Israel (n=40) and Sweden (n=32) children were either allocated into a treatment or a delayed treatment control group. 

Results: The current demonstration will show:

  1. How virtual worlds can be harnessed for autism therapy and treatment
  2. How the system operates, the user interface, various modalities and rewarding system.
  3. Results of the clinical trials and their effects on the product development.

Conclusions: EmotiPlay project offers children with ASD and their families the benefit of state of the art educational technology for enhancement of their socio-emotional communication skills. Clinical trials provide support for its efficacy and call for future randomized controlled trials of the environment.