Special Interests

Individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have intense, focused interests. These interests, when harnessed properly, can help motivate an individual to persist in a task that might otherwise be too challenging or bothersome. For example, past research has shown that embedding focused interests into educational curricula can increase task adherence and task performance in individuals with ASD. However, providing this degree of customization is often time-consuming and costly and, in the case of computer-mediated interventions, high-level computer-programming skills are often required. We have recently designed new software to solve this problem. Specifically, we have built an algorithm that will:

(1) retrieve user-specified images from the Yahoo database;

(2) strip them of their background; and

(3) embed them seamlessly into Flash-based computer programs.

Example Games

Try it out for yourself! Click on one of the games below, and type in a special interest. Select the best picture that gets returned, and play the game! If all goes well, the game will now feature your special interest. For some search queries, we recommend adding ".gif" to the end of your search term.

Research Contact

This project was designed at the MIT Media Lab, by researchers in the Affective Computing Group.

For more information about this project, please contact Rob Morris at:

rmorris [at] media.mit.edu