Thursday, December 4, 2014

Artificial Intelligence to Help Improve Communication Skills in Autistic Children – How Siri Did It

In the spirit of the holidays and being grateful for all we have, I wanted to share this heartwarming story I read titled, “To Siri, With Love – how one boy with autism became BFFs with Apple’sSiri.” It was written in the form of a letter from a mother whose son was born autistic. She took the time to write a thank you letter to Siri for being a friend to her son and teaching him many things that he might not have understood before; for example, showing him the essence of companionship.

Technology has been proven to be one of the most effective ways for children with autism to improve communication and social skills, and enhance learning abilities. The technology is advancing as well. According to experts in this field, next generation virtual assistants are going to be able to do more than just retrieve information – they'll be able to have a more complex conversation within that persons area of interest. "Your son will be able to proactively get information about whatever he’s interested in without asking for it, because the assistant will anticipate what he likes," said William Mark, Vice President for Information and Computing Sciences of a leading independent research center. Relating this back to the story above, this boy could actually have an intuitive, fluid conversation with a virtual assistant about topics that interest him; in this case, the weather.

Virtual Assistants and self-service are a trending option in today’s market but as you can see, their benefits can go far beyond the scope of support or sales. People want to be able to do things their own way, on their own time, and that includes socially. Some people are just more comfortable chatting with Artificial Intelligence than others. And in this particular case, that allowed this autistic boy to feel comfortable but still get that social interaction that human beings desire.

Here is a video from ABCNews.com describing just how Siri helped this teenage boy.


What is your opinion on children with disabilities and technology? Is it pushing them away from human interaction or better preparing them? Should children in school classrooms have access to a virtual assistant to facilitate learning? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.