Externalization Toolkit
How technological tools help people communicate their internal states

Jackie Lee, Ming-Zher Poh, Heymian Wong
Dr. Matthew Goodwin, Prof. Rosalind Picard



We propose a set of personalized technological toolkits in order to encourage scientific discoveries of individuals' physiological characteristics. In particular, we aim for the toolkits to be usable in one of the most challenging usability conditions: helping individuals diagnosed with autism and their communities. This toolkit enables people to visualize and utilize autonomic arousal information using: wearable, wireless, heart-rate and skin-conductance sensors; pendant-like and hand-held physiological indicators hidden or embedded into certain toys or tools; and a customized software interface that allows caregivers and parents to establish a general understanding of an individual's arousal profile from daily life. We are evaluating the ability of this externalization toolkit to help individuals on the autism spectrum to better communicate their internal states to trusted teachers and family members.

Externalization Toolkit includes physiological sensors, physical displays, and software interfaces.

Physiological Sensors

We utilize wearable/wireless physiological sensors such as Heartphone (ear-mounted heart rate sensors designed and implemented by Ming-Zher Poh), iCalm (wearable skin conductance sensors implemented in the Affective Computing Group), and Polar(TM) T31 heart rate transmitters (belly sensor).

Physical Displays

We designed a series of physical displays to explore how displays engage human perception via attentive, ambient, and tactile ways. MiniHearts are wearable accessories (i.e. hand-held, pendant-like) that display the user's heart beats using a pulsing LED.


MiniHeart displays the user's heart beats

Physiological Dashboard

We implemented customizable software interfaces that display physiological information such as heart rate BPM (beat-per-minute), skin conductance collected from wireless sensors in real-time. It also allow users to mark events via pressing pre-defined keys. Snapshots (see below) were taken during a progressive muscle relaxation training.


Physiological Dashboard enables individuals to track heart rate information with video.

We thank Betsy Stratis, Meghan Scrimgeour for their supports and helps at the Groden Center.

(Last updated on April 16, 2009 )



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Jackie Chia-Hsun Lee
ffective Computing
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Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
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