By: Nathaniel Tok, Peak Associate

 

A team of SFU engineering science graduate students called the Viu Health Team have created a wearable device and a mobile app to help those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) live more fulfilling lives.

 

The inspiration behind the technology

Graduate students Chakaveh Ahmadizadeh, Jordan Lui, Neha Chhatre, Rana Sadeghi Chegani, and Zhen Xiao initially entered a Microsoft-hosted neurodiversity hackathon together, where they learned about the issues that ASD patients and their families faced. In an email interview with The Peak, the Viu Health Team wrote about their inspiration for the project: “Our first vision for this project during the neurodiversity hackathon was motivated by a need for greater insight and tracking for individuals living with autism.”

“Many people with ASD have a difficult time expressing and communicating their emotions,” they wrote. “We decided to use our background knowledge to provide a solution for people with ASD and by tracking anxiety.”

After working with Microsoft Garage (Microsoft Vancouver’s development lab) during the neurodiversity hackathon, the Viu health team decided to continue working on the project with the Garage, which provided resources such as space, networking opportunities, and access to useful technologies, like 3D printers.

 

How it works

The Viu Health Project aims to help those with ASD manage their anxiety. A wearable device, which is integrated with a mobile app, is able to individualize itself to the user and then learns, predicts, tracks and manages anxiety episodes.

The team created a system that used physiological signals from a wearable device to identify when an individual is feeling distressed and to predict episodes.

Pilot studies done by the team had shown that biosignals were good indicators for episodes. These predictions would give users advance notice so they could remove themselves from anxiety-provoking situations to help in self-regulation or to notify loved ones.

As part of its individualization feature, the device also provides “meltdown tracking” — tracking occurences of meltdowns over time to identify patterns that reflect the individual’s unique sensitivities to overwhelming situations.

 

Device showcase

The team presented their project at the BC Tech Summit in May to get feedback from the healthcare, ASD, and tech community about the “potential and need for [their] technology.” According to the team, “We got very positive feedback at the Summit, especially from people in the healthcare community. Healthcare authorities and companies were very interested to see this technology applied for mental wellness.”

The team believes the technology can be used in clinical settings to create more personalized care and to track health trends. For now, their goal is to collect more data for different situations, optimize the software, and to engage potential users.

Ultimately, the team hopes to finish the project and make their technology available for the public. “Giving individuals an ability to track episodic events is empowering,” wrote the team, adding that “the tracking and analytics provided by Viu can enable users to focus on their wellness.”

With files from The Daily Hive.