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Non-Profit Approaches for Distribution and Support of Let's Face It! Software
Dr. Jim Tanaka of Visual Cogntion Lab at the University of Victoria (UVic) and Drs. Marni Bartlett and Javier Movellan of the Machine Perception Lab at the University of California, San Diego are collaborating on an exciting new project intended to enhance the emotion-recognition abilities of children with autism. The new project integrates the computer-based intervention known as Let’s Face It! (LFI!) with UCSD’s Computer Expression Recognition Toolbox (CERT). Let’s Face It! (LFI!) is a training program designed to improve the face skills of children with autism in a variety of face processing domains. CERT is a revolutionary new software package that allows for the real-time expression detection via web-cam input. The integration of the LFI! program and CERT allows the child to receive immediate feedback on their facial expression productions. This technology has recently been implemented in an interactive exercise called "Smile Maze," in which users are required to produce and hold the target expression for varying lengths of time in order to navigate past obstacles located in a maze. Smile Maze was demonstrated at a recent Face Camp, an educational children's science camp at the University of Victoria, where it received enthusiastic reviews from children and parents alike. Facial expression tasks such as this, which children with autism find engaging, may aid in learning nonverbal behaviors essential for social functioning. As LFI! is further refined, a long-term goal is to develop a sustainable non-profit model for distribution, training, and support of the LFI! platform. The objective is to keep costs low (if not free) and to enable access to the greatest number of at need individuals, while providing professional distribution and support mechanisms that will make the LFI! experience as effective as possible. Separating software distribution and support from intervention-related research in our labs may also ensure that future studies of the software are scientifically and clinically motivated.