The Morning Blend


A new tool that makes video chatting easier for those on autism spectrum

Posted at 12:40 PM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 15:40:19-04

Cox Communications is a paid sponsor of The Morning Blend.

As we settle into the “new normal” that is post-pandemic life, there are many aspects that will be here to stay. The past two years has seen the rise of video chat platforms – with 81% of Americans reporting use for work, school or social reasons – more than half claiming at least weekly usage. But for those on the autism spectrum (1 in 44 of us), having a meaningful connection on video chat can be difficult, if not impossible. Non-verbal cues, like reading facial expressions, are key to connecting with others. But some people on the spectrum have a hard time reading these cues; an issue amplified when there’s a screen between us.

In this interview, Dr. Michelle Dean will talk more about some of the challenges that those on the autism spectrum face when communicating via video chats. She’ll also share how Cox Communications used speech and facial recognition technology in a chat prototype to show that it’s possible to make video chat inclusive for people on the spectrum, by creating technology that enables them to understand the person on the other end, and therefore have more meaningful connections. This new technology analyzes facial expressions, words, and the tone of voice to interpret and assign meaning to video chat interactions – translating them instantly into a single emoji output so that individuals on the spectrum can readily understand and respond. These emojis will use color and motion to signal and reinforce meaning. They are in essence visual closed captions; they are captions that connect.