In this thesis, I investigate new ways to use affective computing and
multimedia tools to augment a child's learning of emotional expression.
I develop the hypothesis that these tools can be particularly useful to
children with autism and their practitioners. I test the hypothesis
by building a candidate research system that comprises a screen on which
are shown emotionally charged animated movie clips, together with a set
of stuffed dolls through which a child can interact with the movies.
Each doll embodied an emotional expression: happy, angry, sad, and surprise.
In operation, the test children are shown one of 200 emotive clips and
they respond by touching the doll whose expression matches that of the
clip. An online guide and registration system allows a therapist
to control and monitor the interactions. Six volunteer test children
used the system at the Dan Marino Center in Ft Lauderdale and their reactions
were observed. This served as verification that a system that manipulated
movies and haptic interfaces was feasible and second, such a system could
augment and potentially automate some of the human-intensive, repetitive
aspects of existing behavioral therapy techniques. All six children responded
to and attended to the system, with five of them completing three one-hour
day visits comprising multiple sessions. Some children showed improvement
in their matching of emotions and one child demonstrated generalization
in a home setting.
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