SiLAS receives grant in partnership with Dr. Torres, Rutgers University

SiLAS is excited to announce that we have received a grant in partnership with Dr. Torres, Rutgers University &  the New Jersey Autism Center for Excellence from the NJ Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism. The two year grant will help us connect social skills and emotional rhythms.

The Abstract

We combine the Socially Interactive Learning Avatar Software, SiLAS the computer technology successfully used across schools of NJ, with new fit-bit like technology that provides real-time measures of biophysical activities, while engaging the children in natural social situations that they themselves design. Through playful settings the children interact socially while using as proxy avatars that they themselves build and watch interact. SiLAS teaches the child about social appropriateness. Importantly, since the children themselves build their social script, and SiLAS endows the avatar with their own voice, eyes and bodily motion patterns as the interaction unfolds, the ensuing learning process is dynamic and fluid. SiLAS helps develop a sense of body ownership and leads to the self-discovery of social appropriateness by having the children assess and discuss the social consequences of their actions with their teacher, as a social group. This form of awareness built through access to their own facial gestures, voices, eye and bodily motions, goes beyond direct prompting. It speaks of intrinsically generated rewards that emerge from emotional awareness and social binding, generalizing to multiple contexts.

SiLAS integrated with computational tools developed by neuroscientists will provide real time biofeedback on levels of stress / satisfaction, as the children enact their scripts and acquire ownership and agency of their social interactions and their consequences. Further, the program will be deployed in the vocational training classes, to help adolescents excel at job interviews and job retention, during their transition into adulthood. At the completion of the project, the curricular activities including SiLAS as part of their training at the schools, will include new scripts made by the children/adolescents and teachers, new biometrics of social interactions for real-time biofeedback, and a wealth of biophysical data for use in neuroscience, and special ed.

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