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Newly rolled out VR avatar to help children with ASD recognise emotions

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The Blue Smile Association and Centric IT Solutions Romania launched today in Iasi a VR emotional expression recognition app intended for the therapy of autistic children; the roll-out of the application thus marked World Autism Awareness Day.

Dubbed 'Virtual Therapist', this is the first application of this kind in Romania and is dedicated to meeting the therapeutic needs of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), improving their evolution and facilitating the work of therapists, agerpres.ro confirms.

"We made a call for CSR projects and received 11 proposals to financially support. That's how we met the Blue Smile Association, whom we provided funding at the beginning of December. That's also when we learned that this is one of the Iasi-based associations engaged in treating autism, having offered in the past 7 years over 36,000 hours of therapy to over 300 children aged between 2 and 12 diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. We also learned that 1 in 54 children is diagnosed with ASD, and studies in Asia and North America have found an ASD prevalence between 1% and 2% in the population. However, if diagnosed correctly and in time, 13 percent of these children grow out of the specific criteria for ASD, after a period of therapy. That has prompted us to beef up this collaboration in early spring and join the efforts of the Blue Smile Association with our technical know-how. With their and the therapists' help, we decided to complete a research project started together with the Faculty of Psychology. Specifically, we gave them the opportunity to use an application developed by our XR department - the Virtual Therapist - to help them in therapy classes for children with ASD," said marketing specialist at Centric IT Solutions Romania Bianca Scutaru.

She explained that the application replaces the traditional method of learning that uses images and gestures of the therapist with a virtual avatar.

"Children with ASD often struggle to recognize emotions in facial expressions, which makes social interactions more difficult. In the project developed together with the Faculty of Psychology, our goal was to create a virtual reality application to improve emotion recognition (face and posture) and to monitor the progress of children with autism during therapy. The use of virtual reality provides the child with a captivating experience. Although the child receives guidance from the therapist, the application replaces the traditional method of learning based on images and gestures of the therapist with a virtual avatar," said the representative of Centric IT Solutions Romania.

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