A team of students from the Master of Commercialization and Entrepreneurship program at the University of Auckland recently won a UniServices prize in the University’s annual entrepreneurship challenge. The team worked with Dr. Mark Sagar from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute’s Laboratory of Animate Technology on the facial recognition software he invented. This program, which has been named LearnEmotion, is led by Graeme Finch, a business development manager at the Research Center for Advanced Composite Materials at Auckland University’s Tamaki campus.
“LearnEmotion is a novel digital application based on an ‘emotional engine’ technology that was developed by Dr Sagar who is an Academy Award winner and worked on movies such as Avatar and King Kong, to assist children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“The LearnEmotion application has the potential to establish a strong connection with the child, assisting them to recognise the expression of emotion in others and training them to express emotion”, he says. “This helps not only the child, but also their wider family group, to better manage relationships.”
This new program has the potential to establish a strong bond with the child, helping them to recognize different expressions of emotion in others, thus helping them also learn how to express emotion. This is important for those with autism, as many trouble in social situations due to their disorder, making it difficult to make and maintain friends. Those with autism often lack the skill of being able to read other people’s emotions or to relate to them, which is why it is vital they learn. Luckily, they often have a fixation with inanimate objects, which is why computer-based applications really help.
LearnEmotion could eventually be the next big thing when it comes to treating autism, as there is a global need for autism treatment that doesn’t rely solely on medication or therapists.