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Upgraded Google Glass helps autistic kids “see” emotions (ieee.org)
266 points by sohkamyung 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments

I wonder what effect this will have on our culture long term. It would be unfortunate if Glass' determination ends being seen as the ground truth.

I have noticed a certain phenomenon where people who are bad at something read books about it to compensate, and then having read books on the subjects start considering themselves experts on it and preach to others, closing the loop from descriptive to prescriptive.

Edited: Added second paragraph

> I have noticed a certain phenomenon where people who are bad at something read books about it to compensate, and then having read books on the subjects start considering themselves experts on it and preach to others, closing the loop from descriptive to prescriptive.

I had a bad case of this, I did it a lot. Fortunately, some people made me aware of this tendency. Now a lot of those things I've learned are natural as if they've always been part of me. To be fair, there's 10 years in between both points.

I think this is a fairly natural cognitive bias, possibly a form of the Dunning-Kruger effect, but there might be a better explanation I don't know for sure.

That not what Dunning-Kruger effect is.

It is a demonstration of th effect

Only a beginner can teach a beginner. First you struggle. Then you think you know it all. Then you forget what was so hard. Then you master it. And then you realize you know very little.

And yet, oddly, sometimes mastery confers the inability to teach something, because most of what you now know, you never learned in association to a structured explanation, only in association to your own trained reflexes.

People who learn a second language understand its grammar from the first stroke, since it’s taught along with the language. People who learn a first language recognize its grammar (i.e. they can tell you whether or not something is grammatical) but don’t understand it, because they picked the language up “naturally.”

Often a master will come to a sophomore student and ask them to explain a concept to the juniors (after checking their explanation for not having any faults the master can find), because a usual master’s explanation (presuming the master isn’t also a master of education) is far less useful to a junior’s understanding than a sophomore’s is. The master is aware of nuances that greatly affect the end result, but aren’t so relevant at first; while the sophomore is aware mostly of things in the order they’ve managed to absorb them so far—which likely reflects the order of least-to-most difficult to absorb, and so reflects the things the juniors would be most likely to be struggling with.

Is that odd?

I think of teaching something as a separate skill. As you say, teaching is about helping a student where they are. Mastering topic X doesn't convey knowledge of how students A, B, and C each relate to topic X.

>And yet, oddly, sometimes mastery confers the inability to teach something, because most of what you now know, you never learned in association to a structured explanation, only in association to your own trained reflexes.

A friend of mine once told me something that stuck with me, truly mastering something isn't the ability to do it well yourself, it's the ability to pass on the knowledge to others. Having taught before I agree. You never realize how little you understand the details of things until you try to teach someone else, and once you become cognizant of the details you forgot while learning enough to teach them to someone else, while retaining your skills and muscle memory, I feel like you can begin to call yourself a master.

"Sophomore" is a term for second-year students (not even halfway done) that means "wise fool" referring to how they're at a level where they think they're smarter than they are, and they don't yet know what they don't know.

Sadly, if an etymology seems clever, it's likely false:


> 1680s, "student in the second year of university study," literally "arguer," altered from sophumer (1650s, from sophume, archaic variant form of sophism), probably by influence of folk etymology derivation from Greek sophos "wise" + mōros "foolish, dull" (see moron). The original reference might be to the dialectic exercises that formed a large part of education in the middle years. At Oxford and Cambridge, a sophister (from sophist with spurious -er as in philosopher) was a second- or third-year student (what Americans would call a "junior" might be a senior sophister).

> I have noticed a certain phenomenon where people who are bad at something read books about it to compensate, and then having read books on the subjects start considering themselves experts on it and preach to others, closing the loop from descriptive to prescriptive.

A motivating way to learn is to teach or re-iterate what you know, you learn new things that way. Going overboard or thinking you are a genius on the topic suddenly is annoying but sometimes it is how that person is motivated.

As far as sharing what people know through learning, that they previously didn't know and is interesting and fresh to their mind, that is part of their learning process.

Spaced Learning [1] + Spaced Repetition [2] are very effective learning/memory techniques, revisiting a topic many times over time.

Even commenting on topics you are into or researched on, simply restating them sometimes leads to learning more about it, at a minimum it sets it into your knowledge through repetition or spaced learning.

There is a fun spaced learning game using Spaced Repetition called How To Remember Anything Forever-ish [3].

Really both techniques just pattern-ize already existing techniques how people learn things through repetition and time. It is really just revisiting a topic in intervals that will put it in memory and make it important, which the brain will spend more cycles on, and new ideas and uses for that knowledge come up.

Talking or sharing what you know about what you just learned is part of that unstructured spaced learning/repetition that helps learn. It plays into presentation as well, when you are teaching a topic you start by summarizing, then get to the details, then resurface with the summary while hitting key points multiple times throughout. A teacher or presenter will learn more and more the more they repeat that topic/lesson etc that is impossible to get to on early iterations or draft/sketch phases.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaced_learning

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaced_repetition

[3] https://ncase.me/remember/

The issue is that though they are well read they are still below average (typically).

True experts are often quiet. Conversely, a loudmouth seeks to distract from their lack of knowledge by talking excessively.

could also just be misguided (or even genuine) passion. think the loudmouth is common among the activist types too. e.g. people we sometimes say in retrospect "must have felt like a Cassandra" etc

I think the problematic thing here is seeing alone isn't feeling+seeing but making assumptions that it is.

It’s interesting you bring up feeling, as that plays a huge role in memory. I’ve often wondered if an autistic person has vivid memory, or if it is more of a factual record of past events. This device may then indirectly affect memory of the autistic as well.

pretty fascinating. I just googled relation of memory and feeling and think this topic is something I could get sucked into for the rest of the quarantine. adding autism to the discussion is one a hell of an interesting curveball.

"Emotional false memory in autism spectrum disorder" ... unfortunately not on sci-hub so I didn't make it past the abstract :( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30973243

Activism is uncorrelated with expertise.

it's correlated with passion. I've never seen an activist who was la-di-da about their work. have you?

> I've never seen an activist who was la-di-da about their work. have you?

Definitely. I once worked in the central office of a well-funded NGO. The activists for this cause had long since burnt out and lost their enthusiasm, but they liked the salary and job security of these office positions, and so they remained with the NGO for decades. Everyone did the bare minimum of activism to get by, without really caring.

>The activists for this cause had long since burnt out and lost their enthusiasm, but they liked the salary and job security of these office positions, and so they remained with the NGO for decades.

that's just word games with 'activist' at that point. They were salary-people who worked for an NGO; Activists can work for NGOs, but that doesn't make one an activist -- personal ethos and actions produces an activist.

Do demogagoues who do activism for ad money and to sell merch to their dumb fans count?

>a loudmouth seeks to distract from their lack of knowledge by talking excessively

Sounds just like a previous team leader of mine.

I think everyone to some extent learns to hack some aspect or another of the social fabric by something close to simulating patterns which come more or less natural to another person. But there are introspective lessons in coming to terms with these obstacles in the first place that are maybe the things of truer value and which could be lost in artificial reward games.

I thought about this at one point in my life. We don't get to experience the pain and suffering that medieval people or cavemen experienced. I think their pain and suffering was much more brutal than what most of us experience. I mean, the child mortality rate was a lot higher, people died younger and you couldn't fix ailments easily.

I figured that it gives such people a mentality in which they are simply accepting live as it is, because you kind of have to by force (in a sense). I think the introspection from that would also be really valuable. But the issue here is: the price is too high.

And I also think that's the case for the autistic group that has trouble with integrating themselves in society in the way they want to. Yes, resilience gained from introspection, for example, is amazing. But the cost might be to live with almost no close friends.

Obviously, this is a sketched scenario and doesn't apply to everyone. But I can imagine that the cost is too high for quite a few people who have issues with social skills. Unfortunately, we still live in a time where we pay a fairly high cost for integrating into the social fabric of society when you're not able to do that by yourself.

I recognize the phenomenon. I once had a roommate who changed his major to communications and then bragged that it was his life's calling and he was the best at communication. He fought with us over stupid stuff and never learned to listen. Drove us totally insane. He used to say that we were going to be bad husbands in the future because we didn't mention things that bothered us as aggressively as he did. Another friend who studied communications very seriously said that many communications professors had marital issues because of their belief in their own abilities. Totally anecdotal, of course.

It is worth noting that difficulties in recognising emotions in faces are by no means unique to ASD; they also occur in ADHD [1], anxiety disorders [2], schizophrenia [3], and probably other psychiatric/neurodevelopmental disorders as well. So, if this technology has value, its value would be a lot broader than only ASD.

(As an aside, a lot of people tend to have this narrow focus on just ASD to the exclusion of other psychiatric/neurodevelopmental disorders, despite the fact that all these disorders have lots of overlap and rather fuzzily defined boundaries. None of the symptoms of ASD are unique to ASD; they all occur in other conditions also; given that all treatments for ASD are treating symptoms rather than the unknown underlying causes, any therapy for any ASD symptom is very likely to also work for other disorders in which the same symptom is expressed.)

[1] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Da_Fonseca/public...

[2] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Christopher_Monk2/publi...

[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S00063...

That makes good sense. ASD is a catch all term for those with certain symptoms that are unexplained by other factors. Schizophrenia and anxiety disorders would be some of those other factors. Not sure about ADHD.

There is substantial comorbidity with ASD and ADHD. ADHD occurs in ~4.4% of the general population, but with ASD that goes up to ~45% (the margin of error is massive on the latter)

Some of the symptoms of ADHD, like RSD (rejection sensitive dysphoria), sound very much like ASD traits rather than ADHD traits.

In the future I think we'll find a lot more underlying commonalities of all of these conditions. OCD, GID (gender identity disorder), misophonia, tourettes and more are also strikingly comorbid within ASD.

There was a great Philosophy Bites podcast that talked about the high comorbidity of mental disorders. This one, I think: https://philosophybites.com/2016/01/steven-hyman-on-categori...

The point that stuck with me is that, as you say, the high comorbidity is strong evidence that we have a bad model of the situation. Part of that for me is the medicalization of deviance.

As an example, I saw a bit on Twitter from an autism researcher who was sitting in on a young girl getting tested for autism. She was shown an animation of triangles moving around in a way that neurotypicals would anthropomorphize: https://twitter.com/DrRubySapphire/status/123278780736346112...

She described how the triangles moved instead of humanizing them. She recognized that they looked like they were playing, but knew that triangles didn't have minds. That was marked as a failure, a sign of sickness. Not because she was wrong, but because she was different from the norm.

I think a lot about the world where we just accept that there are a bunch of different kinds of people and stop trying to fit them all into one mold. Where we make the world work for all of them, not just the "normal" ones (which, historically, seems to mean straight, white, moneyed, neurotypical men of a particular body type).

Have you seen this paper? https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-019-0631-2

They cast doubt on the biological validity of the distinction between ASD, ADHD and OCD.

Similarly, in this editorial – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28714261 – Waterhouse et al write "The ASD diagnosis lacks boundary construct validity because 96% of those with ASD have significant non-diagnostic symptoms, including many who have full comorbid disorders"

Waterhouse et al expand on their arguments in that editorial in this paper – https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40489-016-0085-...

Yeah, that was my initial reaction (though without your knowledge of the topic): there are a lot of people who could benefit from this, not just those with autism.

Such studies, papers and news always makes me cringe. It seems overly engineered with limited usefulness.

Superpower glass … really?

As background I work in public research and have no background in Autism research. Yet, due to a mutual friend, I was lucky to meet Kelly Hunter, and attend one of her workshops (together with several other researchers working on helping autistic children). I knew the Stanford project, mentioned it and got just strange looks: “This does not really solve any of the problems we are facing” It seems detecting facial emotions are not the main problems of the autistic children they are dealing with ...


Here’s work from a friend on the topic: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/grand-challenges/sites/grand-challenge...

The system itself can just help children with very mild symptoms. One colleague who works on wearable sensing for them mentioned that even head bands and wrist watches cannot be used as children commonly take them off and throw them around.

Kelly also runs a fundraiser right now in case somebody wants to help out. In my personal opinion much more useful than the solution described in the ieee article: https://www.facebook.com/donate/574661226469627/101582037614...

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means there is a wide range of afflictions, and the afflictions range from very, very mild to debilitating.

Conducting research for something that is spectrum based is frustrating because researchers can only target one small area. The approach is necessary in order to tackle the problem because the problem is so large, we'll need a lot of researchers working on a lot of very focused areas in order to move forward in a broad fashion.

Completely agree, yet I think this should be reflected in the article.

From the limited exposure I had with children on the spectrum, I didn’t see many that could actually wear a google glass to use it as described in the article. I also don’t understand the benefit of the device itself. It’s not designed for autism, the interventions seem simplicstic ,battery life is highly limited, it‘s very fragile ... if it’s for short interactions and games (like they describe in the papers) I wonder what the advantage of the head mounted display is compared to other setups. they don’t do any comparisons.

It turns out that people with autism do have difficulty detecting emotions. A classic task in the lab is the "reading the mind in the eyes" task (http://socialintelligence.labinthewild.org/mite/), whereby individuals need to identify the emotion someone is expressing by looking at a picture of their eyes. People with autism consistently show lower scores than healthy controls.

Will improving the ability to detect emotions improve clinical outcomes? We don't know, but their initial evidence looks promising: take a look at the JAMA Pediatrics paper (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/...) and the Nature Digital Medicine paper (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41746-018-0035-3), which are both linked to in the article:

Would a therapy like the one you described be better than a technology like this? Maybe. But therapy also very expensive, time consuming, and prohibitive for people who don't have time to take their kid to it every week. We are always looking for new approaches. Even if technology like this doesn't work out, learning why it doesn't work will be helpful for developing future treatments which are better. Remember that this is active research, not an established methodology. (Don't be put off by the "breakthrough therapy" designation mentioned in the article, which is a bureaucratic technical term used by the FDA.)

The paper you linked to is about monitoring, and is not useful by itself without a therapist to interpret it and evaluate it. There is not yet established methodology on how to use this kind of data.

On a related note, there has been a lot of interest recently in real-time feedback for enhanced therapy and treatment. There is a growing literature on neurofeedback in particular, such as reducing depression symptoms by training someone to control their neural activity (e.g. see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xb7bgNo3sUs). Exciting stuff!

Therapists that worked 10 -20 years in the field are maybe better than some tech that's not even thoroughly evaluated? Sorry that made me chuckle. Check some of the videos. The children I saw in the workshops (who played Shakespeare at the end), would have just taken the Google glass and threw it to the ground as soon as they would have been angry. There were a lot of dangerous situations in the workshops, that therapists could just avert due to their training ... The article and the research paper oversimplify the problem. This is just useful for a very small minority of autistic children. Autism is a spectrum and it is very complicated.

here some videos so you can judge: https://vimeo.com/user42939049

What's the point of knowing someone is angry if you do not know why he is angry? Detecting emotions doesn't strike me as particularly useful. Manipulating emotions of others on the other hand,...

Knowing someone is angry allows you to act accordingly.

If you don't know someone is sad how do you console them?

There's a great comedy on Netflix called Atypical, one of the things the main character deals with in this show is his inability to read peoples emotions.

That you think a sad person needs consoling reveals your lack of understanding of the problem. It wouldn't occur to an autistic person to console someone who is sad. The ability to read emotion isn't useful on its own. You also need to know how to react to this emotion. Knowing someone is angry won't help you if you have no idea how to defuse this anger. Social interactions do not make sense for autistic people and need to be learned like a foreign language. It's like writing a computer program. You have to be very precise when telling a computer what to do and the same goes for autistic people. You can't just tell them someone is angry and expect them to know what to do. Or when someone is sad, even if you tell them that they have to console such a person, they'd have no idea what consoling even is and how to do it.

See this is the problem a lot of children on the spectrum don't know how to react (or will react in an atypical fashion) ... You need to train interactions (and changes in emotions during communication).

There might be something useful coming out of it, yet it might also do more harm than good.

It's a start. You're unlikely to learn why somebody is angry unless you know that somebody is angry. And humans are very good correlators. If me doing X repeatedly leads to immediate anger, I'll learn not to do it even if I don't understand why.

It sounds to me like you could do a lot more to just educate the parents.

You don't get mad and shout at a young child who has decided to put the silverware away. You talk to them about the process of making and serving dinner. He could have been shown that one way to make the silverware more orderly is set the table for everyone while Mom cooks.

That was my response to my then five year old being impatient with dinner not being ready. I taught him he was allowed to set the table to keep himself occupied and help me get dinner ready faster.

He wasn't required to set it. He was empowered to do so if he chose rather than being a pain in the butt for me.

The example is just one example. For some parents, it's this but all the time with different things.

ASD* kids don't learn like neurotypical kids and if you treat them the same you will quickly get exhausted. As someone who has had classes on this, you can't "educate" the kid out of being autistic, and many have tried. This technology is just an adaptive tool, and a great one if it works.

Yes. I'm aware. BTDT, got the t-shirt -- as noted in my two other comments in this very discussion.

You say that, but "somewhat confirmed" is not a diagnosis.

I'm telling you that, diagnosis or no diagnosis, I raised two extremely challenging children. I was chronically short of sleep the first seven years of my oldest child's life and I was a full-time homemaker. I didn't also have a paid job.

I'm quite familiar with how crazy making special-needs kids can be. I didn't need a formal diagnosis because I was homeschooling, so I didn't need to justify getting accommodation. I was their teacher. I could decide to just accommodate them, without an IEP.

Some things they did get formally identified:


Dysgraphia (in the IEP when they were in school)

A serious medical condition

Eyesight issues

ADHD was ruled out for my oldest.

Probably other things I'm not recalling. It's been a lot of years.

Things I learned about because they seemed relevant to our needs, though I had no official diagnosis:



Face blindness

Sensory issues of various sorts

My younger son, the one I found easy to deal with, was one of the kids that qualified his small kindergarten class for additional part-time help. Another student had a formal diagnosis of ADHD or similar. Another was in a wheelchair, having lost both legs to a serious and life threatening infection when he was younger.

I would visit his class and it was obvious he wasn't like the other kids. He was the only child in the room who couldn't keep his butt in his desk chair.

I hadn't noticed what a hyper and aggravating mess he was until I saw him in a classroom of other five year olds because, at home, he was the (relatively) quiet child that didn't drive me batty.

I don't need a formal diagnosis to say "Yes, I dealt with a child doing things like that all day, every day, like you described."

I also took classes and what not. Dealing with my crazy making children was my full-time job for a lot of years. I took it seriously and did a lot of reading and took classes, etc.

Honestly seems like you just read the first two paragraphs and stopped. As a father of two autistic children, it's more than just how to speak, or even explaining things if you are lucky enough that your children are verbal. This isn't about wearing the glasses long term, it's about a tool used to teach the children social skills. About recognizing facial expressions, an issue many autistics have.

This isn't about educating parents on how to talk to their children. It's about educating autistics on how to interpret faces in different people.

> Children are expected to quickly learn how to detect the emotions of their social partners and then, after they’ve gained social confidence, stop using the glasses.

Situation is fictional to illustrate utility of device.

It's a lousy assumption then. Ick. Expect better of parents.

I yelled at my special-needs son for opening the oven door and using it as a stepping stool to see what I was cooking. I wasn't mad. I was scared he would climb on it while the oven was hot.

Because I wasn't mad and he heard me yell "no!!!" at full volume, he thought that's just how you pronounced the word and yelled it the first two weeks he began using it. I would look at him funny and he would look funny like "Did I pronounce it wrong?" After two weeks, he stopped yelling the word.

I wasn't mad. I was scared he would climb on it while the oven was hot.

The other fear here should be that it acts like a lever. The kid doesn't have to be that heavy to cause a free-standing stove to tip over.

This is not a hypothetical danger. https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2010/11/one-year-ol... reports that over a thousand kids per year get injured this way and on average 1-2 of them die.

There is supposed to be something at the back of the stove to prevent it from tipping over. Ours had a little device that surrounded one of the feet to do this. The installer said it was now required by law.

That has been required by law for a long time now.

A lot of stoves don't have it actually installed even though they are supposed to.

Maybe I'm out of the loop but I think the issues was that it was never made for consumer use.

I had plenty of uses for simple hands off first person recording. Sports and school events would have benefitted from video recording.

Seeing their enterprise use, I'm thinking other people had a similar idea.

The point is that autistic people may not possess a theory of mind. They do not understand or anticipate the desires and intentions of others, and may not be aware that other people even have desires and intentions. You can't explain dinner to them if they are unable to comprehend that you intend to make it and that you desire the space and time to do so efficiently.

After having interacted with a person with autism daily for a few years (and parts of their social groups which include others with autism) I wonder if there's any truth to that at all.

It almost seems as the opposite was true where telling of intention and desire is _extremely accurate_, to a scary degree, if it's interpreted through text or speech. But where body language and weird social norms/white lies that are important social queues for me go completely unnoticed.

If people not on the spectrum actually understand others intentions and desires more, and not just have the ability to read it from social queues people on the spectrum don't pick up, what does that say about so many people acting in selfish and mean ways if it benefits them?

I'm absolutely not aspie. I sometimes get accused of being such. It's always because I'm saying "The emperor has no clothes!" and people don't like it and want to shut me up and pretend I have no social skills whatsoever (to try to create plausible deniability for their crap).

I spent a lot of time in therapy. I've learned to keep more quiet about things that seem obvious to me because I do at times miss the fact that what is obvious to me is something someone else thinks they are very cleverly hiding or some crap. Like anyone, I have something of a tendency to assume that what is obvious to me is obvious to others.

An awful lot of so-called social skill appears to be knowing what polite lies you are supposed to collude with to make the people around you comfortable. This is actually the root cause of the persistence of a lot of social ills.

If you can't tell someone "Yeah, that's racist/classist/sexist baloney, give me a break" because that's too rude to tolerate, don't be all shocked when the world is overrun with racism, classism, sexism, etc.

Abusive people also count on normalizing their ugly behaviors and on people around them not saying "No, dude, that's not funny at all. Stop that." We have movie scenes where some child is hiding from a visiting aunt and her icky slobbery kisses and tendency to pinch his cheeks hard and the parents giggle about the behavior of the child rather than tell the aunt "Bitch, keep your hands to yourself. No, you don't have a right to do this to my child. They don't like it, so don't do it."

And then we are all mystified at how to stop child molesters. But you can't tell people "Um, yeah. You are actively colluding with child molesters when you do stuff like that."

Because that would be rude. Or something.

Yeah, I think the problem (if you permit me to label it so) is often less with recognising emotions, and more with diagnosing why someone has that emotion.

In the given example, it may be apparent to the child that mum is angry/annoyed. But they are likely to be confused as to why.

(which is where DoreenMichele's point about educating the parents comes in - if they can clearly articulate how they feel and why in a given situation, then the autistic child is likely to be able to learn and remember this, even if it might take them a few repetitions of the situation for it sink it (like anyone learning anything that isn't intuitive to them))

Yes, it's accurate to a degree of being almost uncomputable. Most people instead have simplified, efficient, stereotype-based heuristic models of others.

I don't believe this to be the case, I don't think autistic people as a rule lack theory of mind. I think autistic people lack the model to link desires to actions and so have a maladapted or vague theory of mind instead.

If I'm with people who's emotional responses I've learned, I can understand somewhat their desires and intentions are. I've found listening to their breathing gives me a big head start on understanding their current wellbeing and I go from there.

With strangers and in scenarios where the communication protocol changes then it becomes enough of a task to decode the emotional exchanges happening that I'm sure I'd fail a test for theory of mind. I can't read what strangers want, I know that they do have intentions and desires but I can't map them until I understand that person's emotional language.

There's a definite distinction between lacking a theory of mind entirely and not having the tools available to build a reliable one. I think a lot of autistic people have a rudimentary theory of mind but understand desires and intentions perfectly when told explicitly ahead of time.

> The point is that autistic people may not possess a theory of mind

Well, that claim is frequently made, but not everyone agrees that it has been sufficiently demonstrated. See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6959478/

If you put in 'some' or even 'most' you might be right. Not saying I agree but it's theoretically possible. But it's too deep a theory to fit all cases of such a broad category because it is not consistent with diagnostic criteria. I for example definitely have a theory of mind. But my diagnosis merely says that I do not have the same level of social success as others of my level of general development. And that's absolutely correct.

Most likely, both my sons qualify as somewhere on the autism spectrum. They were never formally diagnosed and I used to routinely give advice to parents whose children did have a formal diagnosis when I was involved with an educational organization.

Edit: I left out the critical part. I gave them advice and routinely said for the longest time "I don't have any ASD kids, but when my kid does that..." It happened so much, I began to wonder if maybe I did, actually, have ASD kids. (It was later somewhat confirmed by unofficial professional feedback.)

My first website was a homeschooling blog. It grew out of the seeming popularity of my emails on a homeschooling list with a lot of parents of special-needs kids.

I know quite a lot about autism and related issues.

My oldest was such a pill, he was nicknamed demon child when he was little. He was an adolescent before he understood what I meant because I absolutely wasn't vilifying him, though he was hugely challenging to deal with.

Humans aren't just born with social skills. There is a huge component of being raised right that I think is currently given short shrift by a society too quick to medicalize every parenting challenge, as if there weren't any socially awkward or shy kids before we had fancy labels for them.

I think this is very true. I also had a lot of social communication issues growing up and still do. Not receiving special treatment and trying hard to conform with others improved my social skills a lot. Social skills can definitely be learned. You can learn to make eye contact even if it hurts a lot, you can learn to attentively listen and nod.

But I think the greatest help in my social skills was watching a lot of TV shows (especially sit-coms). Many make fun of socially awkard situations, word plays, misunderstandings taken to the extreme teaches you social interaction by example and it's fun :).

FWIW, pulling my sons from public school so they weren't forced to deal with a ton of really unpleasant social interaction daily helped them seem a lot more "normal." We've arranged our lives to be fairly quiet and so forth to accommodate sensory issues and also addressed underlying health issues to reduce sensory issues.

I often forget how difficult they can be and how impaired they are. Then we end up for some odd reason at a crowded restaurant and my oldest son is climbing the walls and I remember that this used to be a routine thing and the more he is subjected to it, the more difficult he is to deal with -- and understandably so because he's extremely stressed.

Anyone who knows anything about ASD usually asks me sooner or later if he is autistic. The fact that he's not normal isn't anything subtle at all. He still does not "blend" with normal society.

But he's a lot more functional than I ever expected him to be and he nursed me back to health after doctors basically wrote me off for dead, so I certainly don't see him as incompetent. He will probably never hold a "normal" job and there are lots of people who don't have "normal" jobs.

I don't see why we can't have more emphasis in this world on helping people find their niche instead of on trying to force fit square pegs to round holes and pretending there are no square holes out there. Square holes exist. We just have this very broken idea that because someone is ill suited to X they are simply bad and terrible and incompetent people who cannot be fixed.

This has not been my experience and I also think the world has changed a whole lot. My parents also like things quiet and like having control over their environment. No one has ever suggested there was something wrong with them because of it.

My dad grew up on a farm. My mother worked in the fields as a teen and got paid in kind in post-WW2 Germany where the economy was so very bad (meaning if she helped harvest cherries, she came home with a bushel of cherries to help feed the family). Historically, farms were much quieter than modern life and most people lived and/or worked on them.

The world changed in a way such that it's much noisier and busier and people have much less latitude for arranging their lives as they see fit, but instead of recognizing that, we just give all the children who don't like that a label and claim they are broken.

I'm very skeptical of that explanation -- that we just suddenly and mysteriously have tons and tons of bad apple children for no apparent reason. (Because if you suggest they are medically impaired from a toxic world full of chemicals that didn't exist a hundred years ago, now you are an illogical conspiracy theory nutter. So we don't have an official explanation for why these kids deserve to be called disabled.)

Yes, I think we shouldn’t label kids as autistic or something else. A theory of mine is that people on the spectrum always existed throughout the history. I think it’s also not true that an autistic person cannot hold normal jobs.

For example, I work as a lawyer in a law firm. There are a couple of associates who I suspect are in fact on the spectrum. People sometimes make fun of them, they generally like to work alone and in isolation, but they are brilliant attorneys and praised and respected for their work.

An internet friend had a child diagnosed with "selective mutism." It's basically medicalese for "The kid gets tongue tied and can't manage to talk in some social situations."

Telling other people "She has selective mutism" turned out to make the child's social problems so much worse that she stopped doing that and began telling people "She's just shy." like her own parents had said about her when she was growing up.

I think people seek diagnoses when they are too impaired to cope on their own and they are in social settings where having a label is the only way other people will accommodate them.

My sons don't have a formal diagnosis because I homeschooled, so I didn't need it to get them accommodation. My oldest is so obviously not normally that I still have people just assume he's aspie without me ever saying anything about him having special needs. And he's better and more normal seeming than he used to be, which sometimes causes problem when people assume he's being intentionally difficult instead of assuming he's impaired in some way.

I always told him he just has to find his niche in life.

His dad was career military. I think he probably qualifies as on the spectrum. He will probably never be officially diagnosed. Being in the military worked for him.

It's recommended that you buy multiple copies of the same outfit for your aspie kid to accommodate their sensory issues. Einstein dressed that way and there are other people who have dressed that way without having a diagnosis of ASD.

The military expects you to wear a uniform. So you are required to have multiple copies of the same outfit to wear to work and you can't wear anything else.

Many people complain bitterly about things like school uniforms. I knew more than one military member whose attitude was more like "One less thing for me to worry about!"

We are all a sum of a bunch of different things, including social climate around us. It's much easier to blame the individual and double down on expecting them to fit in than to tell the rest of the world to get over its crap.

Please notice that human rights issues like racism, sexism, etc. are battles to tell the rest of the world to quit its crap. We aren't there yet for various types of people we have decided are "disabled."

I am medically handicapped. I have a compromised immune system. My life has been easier in many ways since the pandemic started because suddenly the rest of the world cares about germ control. Normally, it's just my personal problem that other people's nasty habits literally make me sick.

I hope we outlaw blowing your nose at restaurant tables and stuff like that because of the pandemic. That would permanently improve my quality of life and ability to participate regularly in normal society instead of hiding out at home most of the time.

On one hand, I really welcome technologies like this that empower people in a huge way. On the other hand, I really dread that in this case it comes from the company that wants to know everything about you.

The example where Google hid a microphone in Nest makes me believe they will do anything to get more information from people. I think it's not beyond Google to use people's handicaps to improve the image of Google Glass. Sorry to put it like that...

Alexithymia (this inability to recognise emotion in yourself or others) is common in autistic people, but it's neither sufficient nor required for the diagnosis. (It's not even part of the diagnosis).

I mention this because autistic people often wait a long time for a diagnosis, and part of that is this idea that all autistic people are unable to recognise emotion.


I imagine that there are nuances to facial expression that might be difficult to extract from an image or video, depending on the parameters to your ML model.

For example, if someone looks into my eyes, furrows their brows, and shakes their head slowly back and forth, this could mean that they are intensely sympathetic with me (when I am talking), or it could mean that they are disgusted with what I have said (when I have stopped talking), or many other things. If you add sound input to your model then maybe it can figure out how to incorporate that dimension into its results.

Very cool though. Maybe you could have something like this to help colorblind people see colors, deaf people see sounds, the possibilities are exciting.

I assume there are potential users who can’t easily perceive furrowing of brows, but who could infer its context-dependent meaning if it were made more obvious when it’s happening.

I've wanted something exactly like this, i can read emotions when iam putting close effort into the activity however it's exhausting to do so, reducing the mental toll on myself and other in social interaction is appreciated. Less meltdowns and misunderstandings would a upgrade. while it sounds too good to be true at this moment i worry that the black box that tells the user the emotion gives no feedback to why it did so, transparently to the user to make a good judgement is essential. this becomes the heading aid to the autistic it will be same problem the hearing impaired deal with then people find issue with the different.

The idea is great. I guess i would prefer to use the glasses by Bosch instead, that looks like totally normal glasses and projects an image directly on to the retina. https://www.bosch-sensortec.com/products/optical-microsystem...

Although it may be creepy from the perspective of privacy, for those who are okay with it, I imagine that children struggling with Theory of Mind performance might benefit from recording their everyday experiences, and then later having a trusted therapist offer guiding opinion. Google Glass seems to be amenable to something like that.

Sounds great on paper but I highly disagree with the universality of emotions and their represented facial clues. How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Barrett goes into great lengths about this. I think taking this technology into a categorization of emotions is faulty at best and dangerous at worst.

I could use this. Never been tested for Aspergers but could never flex that muscle everyone else seems to have where they can “read the room”. Wife swears I’m on the spectrum. This would save me from many future difficult situations.

Some good info written in annoying marketing press release style. Would be good to get this as a phone app with a headmounted camera, since that's far cheaper than Google Glass + doctor's prescription.

> The glasses are not meant to be a permanent prosthesis. The kids do 20-minute sessions a few times a week in their own homes, and the entire intervention currently lasts for six weeks. Children are expected to quickly learn how to detect the emotions of their social partners and then, after they’ve gained social confidence, stop using the glasses.

Cultural differences will be one of the difficulties for this idea to be successful. Eg, I know that some cultural, they smile when scared. You can see where this might lead to the wrong conclusion.

This is awful. Autistic kids don't need to change how they view emotions. Other people need to be more accepting that other people may not care about their emotions as much as they do.

If this works effectively I think it's a valuable choice to offer to autistic people - whether they choose to use it or not is totally valid of course. Often what people with disabilities are forced to do is choose an imperfect "accommodation", or choose to not participate in something at all, since it is not an option to instantly convert our society to a more compassionate, understanding, and fair place.

I agree with you that the real thing here is that we should accept all people regardless of how they view/prioritize our emotions and meet each other where we all are. But until we are all in that same agreement, I'm all for tools that provide increased agency/information to people who want to use those tools.

I wonder about the opposite application - using it to read autistic emotional signs. Outbursts have ample build up and signs but they aren't noticed or are misread. Because autistic tells aren't neccessarily the same. I liken the situation to trying to treat a cat like a dog and then wondering why they claw you after wagging its tail - in cats that doesn't mean "happy" it means "back off!". Communication is fundamentally a two way street.

Google glasses for the blind are now available for preorder.


This is pretty cool. I didn't really get to do this sorta thing with a speech therapist until I was in middle school. I think it'd be pretty good for young children.

One small worry... I wouldn't want the child to get overdependent on the device. Perhaps it would be good if they only wear it for a certain portion of the day? Not sure.

I have a son with Austism, and this is a very interesting project. But why? It is better to teach the reading of body language.

Interesting that emojis of faces can be identified but not actual faces. Is this because the emoji is just much simpler to process?

Emoji faces look identical while people differ in their facial expressions and how they choose to show them.

Sure, but you would think that after seeing your parents' expressions for year's you would start to recognize them eventually too. I'm wondering what makes symbols that much easier to understand.

First thing that occurs to me is how easily this can be used/exploited by people with less than great intentions.

Now we just need a version for neurotypical people to allow them to see the emotions of the autistic.

See ‘double empathy problem’.

So instead of kids learning to recognize emotions on the human face, we will teach them to recognize symbols in the glasses that describe these emotions? And this will make them to interact with people better? I don't think this is progress.

Seems funny that the symbol for a happy face is a happy face emoji.

Autism is also a _sensory_ disorder. Speaking entirely for myself, I would find the additional stimuli distracting at best and unbearable at worst.

Oh wow...google glass, that's something I haven't seen in a long time.

The implications of this are vast - what more could we accomplish with this kind of technology? I'm so excited to see what's on the horizon. Bravo.

Unfortunately it seems that something will need to change within society at large in order for these to be acceptable outside of the home.

Outside of tech circles, does anyone care enough to remember? It was a fad for a week.

I want this and I want this now.

Is this a claim that computers are better at emotions than some humans? Something does not sit well.

this robot can walk better than a disabled human in a wheelchair? something does not sit well.

The robot does not sit well.

"Autism" is a term that is used to denote a complex set of neurological stuff, but one common theme is that autistic people have difficulty making sense of the deluge of sensory input. I could see how something which helps to simplify this could be helpful for some autistic people. So yes.

Wouldn't work for everyone- My brother was severely autistic and he would have just smashed the glasses.

Identifying emotions, yes.

Seems like its a soft push for creepy ad-tech from Google. Google will happily mine this data and eventually roll it into their ad business, while claiming its "anonymized".

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