Empathics Trialing New Device for Autistic Adults
November 19, 2019

The Empathics team recently embarked on a design shift to greater focus our efforts on outcomes that benefit individuals more directly. Additionally, after much great and insightful feedback from readers of our last blog post, the technology will be refocused as a wearable device for autistic adults. We envisioned Empathics as a horizontal technology, meaning it has the potential to impact multiple domains, from office and doctor/patient communication, to family discussions in the home; improved human communication is the larger goal of Empathics. This renewed focus, we believe, we can make an impact on individuals and communities more directly.

Note: We have consciously chosen an identity-first language to support the self-advocacy for autistic people. We are working closely with a neurodiversity advocate on the use of this language.

Many people’s brains work a little differently, preferring certain types of information over others. Often hand-in-hand with a sharp eye for otherwise overlooked details and patterns, the inability to perceive facial expressions, body language, and voice intonation is a challenge for some autistic people. In fact, while autistic people make up 1.1% of the population, up to 10% of the population may share this struggle.  

While many find day-to-day social interactions unremarkable, even minor exchanges can be a significant source of stress and anxiety for autistic people. The autistic population offers society many gifts. With the value of neurodiversity increasingly recognized in the workplace, we may have an opportunity to support autistic people in navigating the social world. By developing a tool that can lower the number of adverse social experiences while helping them access their full potential.

The rest of society has much to gain through the removal of some of the obstacles that prevent the full participation of autistic people, many of whom offer unique perspectives, highly efficient problem-solving and outside-the-box thinking. The goal is to help link neurotypical and neurodivergent communities and encourage acceptance and understanding of autistic people.

We are not experts in autism, nor are we autistic ourselves, so it’s imperative that we look to the autistic community for the ultimate, firsthand expertise. It is our goal to better serve that community through a participatory and collaborative process by including autistic people in the design process and discussions, solving challenges according to their needs and feedback. We are actively looking for autistic adults to provide guidance and feedback on how this prototype device may best suit their particular needs as individuals and as a community. If you or someone you know is challenged by nonverbal social signals, please visit the team’s feedback survey here.

Thank you for your continued support and feedback. We are especially grateful to our Neurodiversity advocate for their collaboration, feedback, and guidance.

References:

Identity-First Language - autisticadvocacy.org

‘Autistic person’ or ‘person with autism’: is there a right way to identify people? - news.northeastern.edu

11,521 people answered this autism survey. Warning: the results may challenge you. - Autisticnotwierd.com

Neurodiversity is a competitive advantage. - Harvard Business Review

Psychosomatic properties of a scale to measure alexithymia. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics Blanchard, E.B; Arena, J.G. & Pallmeyer, T.P. (1981) - approximately 10% experience alexithymia 

About the Author
Jenna J.
UX Designer
Jenna Jame is a UX Designer on the Vulcan Product Team. 
 
Richard Z.
Richard Zaragoza is a Product Designer on the Vulcan Impact Team.

Category Tags
Ideation
Tech4Good
User Experience
About the Author
Jenna J.
UX Designer
Jenna Jame is a UX Designer on the Vulcan Product Team. 
 
Richard Z.
Richard Zaragoza is a Product Designer on the Vulcan Impact Team.

Category Tags
Ideation
Tech4Good
User Experience
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