Feel and Touch – Haptic Computing to uncover Digital Markers that are relevant for the Screening of Children with ASD

About 90% of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have atypical sensory processing . Those differences can be a potential marker of ASD. Until now, tactile processing has been little explored due to the lack of tools to assess it. However, with the growth of haptic interfaces, there is an untapped potential to understand and assess the tactile processing of individuals with ASD and uncover haptic digital markers.

We designed a mobile haptic game augmented with vibrotactile patterns to assess tactile processing, called Feel and Touch. The goal of Feel and touch is to help a hungry spider to rebuild its web destroyed in a storm mimicking the storytelling of the itsy bitsy spider nursery rhyme. To be able to eat, the spider first needs to build its web. Feel and touch, has 3 activities: build the web, feed the spider, and dancing on the web.

Hypothesis: ASD screening is associated with alterations in tactile processing that can be measured through interaction gestures with haptic interfaces.

Keywords: Haptic computing, touch interaction,  ASD, children, digital markers

Feel and Touch

Feel and Touch is a mobile haptic game augmented with vibrotactile patterns to assess tactile processing. The goal of Feel and touch is to help a hungry spider to rebuild its web destroyed in a storm mimicking the storytelling of the itsy bitsy spider nursery rhyme. To be able to eat, the spider first needs to build its web. Feel and touch, has 3 activities: build the web, feed the spider, and dancing on the web.

Interaction measurements: We developed Feel and touch to run on an iPhone 11. We conducted a direct observation with 5 children from 3 to 6 years old . We use the first version of level 1 of building a web and the first level of feed the spider. All children use the right hand to hold the Iphone and used the left hand to perform the gestures. Each child did the two activities alone. We explained to each child the objective of the activities and gave them the same instructions.


Evaluation methods: From the direct observation, we found that none of the children were scared by the vibrations or made negative comments. All the children were able to perform the tap and drag gestures and responded to the vibration. For the 3-year-olds children, they needed clearer instructions to perform the tap gesture. At the end of the activities, we asked the children if they had felt vibrations before, and children answered that when their parents’ phone rings, their cell phones vibrate, so children know the vibrations and are familiar with them.

These results show that it is necessary to work on the instructions to make them clearer, we also found that it is necessary to work on rewards to keep the children’s attention.


Full demo showing how children with ASD use Feel and Touch in practice

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