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UT Professors Develop Online Game to Help Autistic Children

Image courtesy Yan Zhang, UT School of Information
Two University of Texas professors are developing a free online game called LifeisGame which may help autistic children express their emotions.

Two University of Texas professors are developing a game that could affect the lives of children diagnosed with autism.

Yan Zhang, an assistant professor at UT-Austin's School of Information and engineering professor J.K. Aggarwal are working to create a free online game called "LifeIsGame" designed  to help autistic children communicate.

Zhang said the game may address a component of autistic children's lives that often gets overlooked: their emotions.

"Through interviews we had conducted with families who have autistic children, we got the impression that they are busy dealing with their daily lives without focusing on addressing [their children's] emotional issues. But emotion is a big component of effective social interaction and activities for daily life," Zhang said. "We think this game will be able to address that."

The pair has worked in collaboration with the University of Porto in Portugal since last August to develop LifeIsGame.

"This game is designed for free.  There are a lot of technologies available for autistic children right now but most of them are very expensive. We want to do this for goodwill," she said.

With the first phase of development complete, Zhang is now surveying Austin families to test a mock version of the game.

LifeIsGame will available by August 2012.

Reshma Kirpalani works as a freelancer at KUT News.
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