Smart Glasses Find New Use in Special Education Technology
In the past few years, wearable technology has come a long way. Yet while Apple Watches and Fitbits are far more mainstream now, easily spotted on the wrist of anyone from young kids to baby boomers, eyewear hasn’t come as far.
People laughed when Google Glass came out, they were clunky, odd-looking, and seen as pretentious. Snapchat took a huge loss with their Spectacles, selling only 150,000 units — enough to make them stick to smartphone software for a while. Intel only just came out with a pair of smart glasses that seem truly appealing the other week, as they maintained a simple design: gray, full-brimmed and lacking any camera. In short, the opposite of the Google Glass.
However, despite eyewear technology’s stumbles in the open marketplace, experts are finding usage for it in the field of special education technology. The easier-to-use eyewear pieces are finding ways to assist younger children who might otherwise struggle with bulkier or more distracting items. Whether it’s identification of a diagnosis, practice for real world scenarios, or aides for everyday occurring situations, these pieces of technology are huge steps forward for those diagnosed with autism, dyslexia, blindness, or any other case in which extra assistance is needed.
One piece recently developed is by Orcam, an Israeli tech company. The OrCam MyEye spectacles are a pair of glasses that recognize text and products, and speaks to the user wearing the them. The user simply points their finger, and the device will respond. The glasses are meant to help those who are visually impaired, blind, or dyslexic. A reviewer for the American Foundation for the Blind said that “…OrCam MyEye definitely work as advertised. For the newly blind or individuals with physical or cognitive limitations that prevent them from using a touch screen mobile device, the MyReader and MyEye are excellent…”
Another leap forward may sound recognizable. Google’s eyewear pieces, Google Glass, are making a comeback. Google recently introduced a new version called Glass Enterprise Edition which has promising applications in special education, such as helping children with autism spectrum disorder improve social skills.
The Journal of Medical Internet Research published a study looking into how the images projected by Glass helped children on the autism spectrum better understand emotions of those around them. According to the results of the study, “All 8 children succeeded in using Glass and did not feel stressed (8/8, 100%)” and “All 8 children (8/8, 100%) endorsed that they would be willing to wear and use the device in both home and school settings.” Glass is certainly one to watch in the future of widespread special education technology in the classroom.
Those on the autism spectrum might also benefit from a deeper delve into eyewear technology, into the realm of virtual reality, or VR.
Recently, VR has been used in different kinds of computer-based therapies and social attention treatments for autism. In therapies, a virtual environment is being pushed as a way of teaching real-world skills in a safe control environment before trying them in the general public. Examples include a program created at the Israel-based University of Haifa containing scenarios which are designed to teach autistic children how to cross a road. The U.K. National Autistic Society is working to help integrate VR into therapies as well as use it as a tool to help others understand what those with autism perceive everyday.
While all of these aides and therapies are fairly new, they all show promise to become wider spread tools of special education technology in homes and classrooms to assist children with special needs gain a better education and interact in more social situations. Only time will tell if these tools provide long-term results for the children who need them.
Jonah is a sophomore at Emerson College studying Writing, Literature, & Publishing as well as Political Communication. On campus, he is a publication editor, radio host, and on-air news talent. When he isn’t doing media-based activities, he enjoys reading a good book and having a warm cup of coffee.