Now this may come as a sudden shock, but I was recently approached by some researchers from Stanford University to do a blog about an app they were developing called GuessWhat. After having a thorough discussion with them on the subject and actually testing out the app myself, I’ve decided to go ahead and write that blog as I feel that what these fine men and women are doing is not only in line with everything The Tism stands for, but is also commendable in its own right.
To start, you may be asking “Well Eric, what is GuessWhat?” To answer that, GuessWhat is a mobile charades game in the style of Heads Up designed specifically to be used by 2 to 12 year old children with autism or any form of ASD and their parents (So a bit out of my age range, but I still felt it pertinent to test). The game sees the parent select a game deck based around certain themes (such as “emojis”, “faces”, “animals”, and others) and have them hold their phone to their forehead to display a sequence of images that the child must act out, and depending on whether or not the parent is able to guess what they are acting out correctly, they flip the phone up or down, which them switches it to the next image. The gameplay is captured by the phone’s front-facing camera and at the end of every 90-second game, the parent can then choose to share that video with The Wall Lab (the team of researchers who created this app and who I talked to about making this blog).
On its own, this seems to be relatively simple, and it is. As I said, it is in the style of the game Heads Up. But what makes it special is, as said before, the parents can choose to share their game sessions with The Wall Lab and its researchers, and by doing so, can help directly contribute to autism research, specifically the development of AI models for recognizing different behaviors and emotional facial expressions in children that could help them accurately and quickly provide accessible autism detection and diagnosis, making it significantly easier for people to get diagnosed and get the treatment they need from a young age.
As someone who was diagnosed at a young age, I consider myself incredibly lucky for doing so, and that’s because I’ve heard so many stories of people not getting diagnosed until well into their adulthood or even seniority because of how costly and timely it is to get diagnosed to begin with, forcing them into years of uncertainty and inability to get the treatment, support and help they need. As such, any sort of research that could contribute to cutting down on cases such as those is the kind of research I would gladly throw my full support behind.
But that’s not all. In addition, the app’s gameplay is specifically designed to include key aspects of behavioral therapy and may even have the potential to improve socialization in children with ASD. Now I don’t think I need to specify why being able to help autistic people better socialize and better adapt to society is a good thing, and as such, I will simply say that it’s yet another reason I chose to do a blog about it.
Now that I’ve laid out what the app actually is, how it works, and why I’ve chosen to support it, I will conclude this by telling you how you can help. The Wall Lab is looking for parents to play the app to help improve the models and determine whether or not it has that potential to improve socialization, and you can do that by heading over to GuessWhat.Stanford.edu and downloading the app (Which is available on the App Store and Google Play store for appropriate devices). While there, you can also read more about the app and the exact research these fine folks are doing.
And with that, I think I’m done with this. Shoutouts to The Wall Lab for reaching out to me and showing me their fine work and giving me the wonderful opportunity to talk about it, and thank you all for reading!