University team develops way for web cams to help students with Asperger’s improve their academic performance

Date 7.01.2019

A research team from the University of Northampton has developed computer technology to help students with Asperger Syndrome improve their academic performance.

The team has tested its computer model on videos of university students both with and without Asperger’s to gain a picture of how their expressions differ.

The model can be used by lecturers and school teachers to keep tabs on students’ and pupils’ emotions, via the use of a simple web cam, alerting them to those who show signs of confusion, anxiety or uncertainly, via the teacher’s laptop.

Postgraduate Research Student, Amina Dawood, pictured, said: “Tutors cannot monitor a whole room of students at the same time, so this model allows them to track and detect when individual students are anxious, bored, engaged, confident or uncertain. The tutor can then take steps to help those who might be struggling to understand what’s being taught.

“Similar computer models exist, but ours is the first to focus specifically on those with Asperger’s, who typically have differences in facial expressions and eye gaze compared to those without the syndrome.

“A major advantage of our model is that it runs via a simple web cam focusing on an individual, whereas those developed for people with autism often rely on physiological instruments to extract autism emotions. Those instruments are costly, noisy, require particular environments to work effectively and may need to be attached to the student, so they are also physically intrusive.”

Amina’s colleagues on the research team are Prithvi Perepa, who is an Associate Lecturer in Special Educational Needs, Dr Scott Turner, Associate Professor in Computing and Immersive Technologies and Dr Gary Hill, Head of Computing at the University.