Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Eye Tracking Machines and Autism: A Business Case ?

While searching for a gaze tracking hardware/software in order to better understand drivers/driving for our entry in the Grand Challenge Race, I was talking to one of the manufacturers of eye tracking software (Eyelink, SMI and Seeing Machine) and found out that there was not much awareness with regards to issues of autism and some of the solution devised for the eye tracking business.

In order to make it clear that the two are related, I used the paper of Kevin Pelphrey, Sasson, Reznick and Paul published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in 2002 and extracted one of the most compelling picture that one needs to see in order to understand some of the gaze tracking issues of autistic people.

Eye Tracking Deficiency in Autism Posted by Hello

Obviously, the brain is not tracking the most interesting part of the face and therefore, very little can be gathered with respects to other people's emotion. Learning may as well be disrupted since face tracking is important in learning from imitation.

Some recent studies seem to show that one can detect autism or related cognitive deficiencies by watching videos made by families at age 3 to 6 months. This is very important since, way before going into some biochemical or more intrusive means of detection, I am sure that a video based system, like the one sold by these companies, has some potentiality for cognitive deficiency detection. One needs to realize that there is really no detection mechanism for autism before the age of two and it is generally very late at that stage.

There is a business case to be made especially if you consider that some families are willing to pluck $75,000 of their own money over one year to do something about the autism condition of their kids. More specifically, while it would be extremely difficult to use this technology as a standard test, I am sure however, that families that already have had autistic kids would want to know if their newborn siblings have the same problems. And in the event that they indeed have a similar problem, they would look into working on the imitiation learning business much earlier than at the age of two.

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