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Social communication between virtual characters and children with autism

Alcorn, Alyssa and Pain, Helen and Rajendran, Gnanathusharan and Smith, Tim and Lemon, Oliver and Porayska-Pomsta, Kaska and Foster, Mary Ellen and Avramides, Katerina and Frauenberger, Christopher and Bernardini, Sara (2011) Social communication between virtual characters and children with autism. In: Artificial Intelligence in Education. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 6738 . Springer, pp. 7-14. ISBN 978-3-642-218682

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Abstract

Children with ASD have difficulty with social communication, particularly joint attention. Interaction in a virtual environment (VE) may be a means for both understanding these difficulties and addressing them. It is first necessary to discover how this population interacts with virtual characters, and whether they can follow joint attention cues in a VE. This paper describes a study in which 32 children with ASD used the ECHOES VE to assist a virtual character in selecting objects by following the character’s gaze and/or pointing. Both accuracy and reaction time data suggest that children were able to successfully complete the task, and qualitative data further suggests that most children perceived the character as an intentional being with relevant, mutually directed behaviour.