Safety and Lack of Negative Effects of Wearable Augmented-Reality Social Communication Aid for Children and Adults with Autism

J Clin Med. 2018 Jul 30;7(8):188. doi: 10.3390/jcm7080188.


There is a growing interest in the use of augmented reality (AR) to assist children and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD); however, little investigation has been conducted into the safety of AR devices, such as smartglasses. The objective of this report was to assess the safety and potential negative effects of the Empowered Brain system, a novel AR smartglasses-based social communication aid for people with ASD. The version of the Empowered Brain in this report utilized Google Glass (Google, Mountain View, CA, USA) as its hardware platform. A sequential series of 18 children and adults, aged 4.4 to 21.5 years (mean 12.2 years), with clinically diagnosed ASD of varying severity used the system. Users and caregivers were interviewed about the perceived negative effects and design concerns. Most users were able to wear and use the Empowered Brain (n = 16/18, 89%), with most of them reporting no negative effects (n = 14/16, 87.5%). Caregivers observed no negative effects in users (n = 16/16, 100%). Most users (77.8%) and caregivers (88.9%) had no design concerns. This report found no major negative effects in using an AR smartglasses-based social communication aid across a wide age and severity range of people with ASD. Further research is needed to explore longer-term effects of using AR smartglasses in this population.

Keywords: Amazon; Amazon Web Services; Autism; Google; Google Glass; augmented reality; autism spectrum disorder; digital health; safety; smartglasses; social communication; technology.