There is a new mobile app in town to detect autism using facial recognition
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects children right from their birth. It is characterized by compromised social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and many types of repetitive behaviors. It is also associated with intellectual disability, complications in carrying out motor functions and also co-ordination and attention. Children with Autism also have a variety of health issues to fight like gastrointestinal diseases. But many autistic children excel in fields like math, music and art.
Detecting signs of autism at a very early age has become increasingly easy thanks to the advent of the technology and advancement in many medical fields. One such advancement has been discussed in the following write-up.
1 What causes autism?
1 in 68 American children suffer from Autism, which is a tenfold increase in last 40 years. An estimated 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls get diagnosed with Autism in the United States of America.
There is no one cause of Autism. Scientists have identified a number of gene changes, or mutations that are associated with Autism. Any of them is enough on its own to cause autism in a child. Autism has a very strong connection to genetics and since the genetics of Autism is complex, it is unclear whether ASD is explained more by rare genetic mutations or by rare interaction of multigene of common genetic variant.
Exposure to air pollution and especially heavy metals during pregnancy may increase the risk of autism.
2 How to detect Autism?
As such in present, there is no definitive medical test that can be done to diagnose autism. But specially trained physicians and psychologists can be helpful in evaluating signs of autism. Even parents can notice unusual behavior of their child like failure to make eye contact, no response to his/her name and a set pattern of repeating things can be signs of autism.
From birth to 36 months of age, each child should be tested for developmental markers during routine visits. So find a doctor who is trained in recognizing signs of autism and can help you in a better way.
If signs of autism are present in a child, a team of multiple doctors can evaluate and confirm it via cognitive tests and even genetic testing can be recommended. Autism can also be diagnosed later in life, if a person has problems in learning, socializing and controlling emotions.
3 The all new mobile app
With the advent of technology in facial recognition and support from ONR (Office of Naval Research), now there is a mobile app in the market that may screen your child for possibility of autism. The app does this by reading facial expressions to emotional cues.
The app is called ‘Autism and beyond’ and is developed by researchers and software developers at the Duke medical center. The app has a set of questionnaires that has to be completed by children and they are made to watch short videos that make them laugh, smile and be surprised.
The app is currently available for download on the Apple store for families who are willing to participate in a medical research study by Duke University for a period of six months. The app is free of cost and parents can use the selfie mode of the app to even record their kid’s facial expressions and the different movements for evaluation by experts and software analysts.
4 How it works?
The app ‘Autism and beyond’ uses an ONR sponsored technology- a complex mathematical algorithm which automatically maps the major key landmarks on the face of the kid and analyses the emotional responses based on the movement of different facial muscles.
Dr. Guillermo Sapiro, a Professor at Duke University, who had developed the above mentioned algorithm, said that they analyze the video to track the position and movement of face and the head, and also the lips, nose and eyes, as all these indicate emotions.
Sapiro also said that the app is not a self-diagnosing tool, but it is a medium to study autism and other developmental challenges.