Informatics, TU Vienna

Embedding novel and surprising elements in touch-screen games for children with autism: Designing experiences “worth communicating about”

Young children with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) are a distinct group with respect to HCI, both because of the nature of ASC, and because many ASC-specific technologies need to address foundational social skills that typically developing children acquire without specific instruction.

Abstract

Young children with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) are a distinct group with respect to HCI, both because of the nature of ASC, and because many ASC-specific technologies need to address foundational social skills that typically developing children acquire without specific instruction. Children with ASC initiating communication has proved a developmentally important but particularly difficult skill to support. This talk describes a new set of experimental touch-screen games for children with autism that aim to motivate spontaneous initiations. Their design is inspired by an earlier research technology, the ECHOES virtual environment, in which children unexpectedly showed great interest in--and often communicated about--perceived novel elements, system errors, and other challenges to their expectations. The new games deliberately embed a wide range of novel and expectation-violating (surprising) aspects as potential communicative motivators. A school-based evaluation study has just concluded, and the talk will show some video examples of children playing the games and make preliminary comments on the success of different design elements.

Biography

Alyssa Alcorn is a final-year PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh School of Informatics. Her work focuses on social, communicative, and educational technologies for children on the autism spectrum, with broader interests and experience in HCI, psychology, design, and research methods. She is a co-founder and organiser of the Learning and Adaptive Environments Research (LAER) Lab, an interdisciplinary working group at the University of Edinburgh. Previously, she was a researcher at the Heriot Watt University Interaction Lab, working on the ESRC/EPSRC-funded ECHOES technology-enhanced learning project. She has an MSc in Cognitive Science from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in Psychology from Mills College, in her home state of California.

Note

This talk is organized by OutsideTheBox at the Institute for Design & Assessment of Technology.