Thesis Defense - University of Houston
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Thesis Defense

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science

Xi Wang

will defend her thesis

Social Interaction and Development Tools for Autism


It is critical to promoting social interaction and development in people with Autism. The deficit in social relationship building, including communication, may lead to decreased independent living, life expectancy, or even severe mental health problems. Using eye contact is an important nonverbal communication behavior that most of us use automatically in social interactions. However, making eye contact with others can be demanding for people with Autism - adults as well as children. Other than the lack of eye contact, sen sory issues are also very common for people with Autism. Some are hypersensitive. They have difficulty filtering out background sounds to focus on one particular voice source. Consequently, it can be very hard to join a conversation or remain in it upon establishing a connection with others via eye contact or brief verbal greeting.

The thesis proposes a series of novel tools to help people with Autism handle challenges during social interaction as mentioned above by leveraging the widely-recognized wearable technologies. The first tool can remind people with Autism to make eye contact by displaying a prompt on a head-mounted display. The second tool adopts virtual reality technology to train children to initiate and hold the eye contact via a fading prompt. The third tool allows people with Autism to focus on a single auditory stream (a person’s voice) based on their prefe rence of conversation participants by detecting the participants' angular position.

Date: Friday, April 8, 2016
Time: 2:30 PM
Place: PGH 362
Advisor: Dr. Larry Shi

Faculty, students, and the general public are invited.