Computing That Serves

Behavioral Imaging: How a Computer Scientist Can Impact the World of Autism.


Thursday, March 6, 2008 - 11:00am


Gregory Abowd, Distinguished Professor, School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology

An HCI researcher is often motivated by needs of some user population, and we often seek solutions to problems that are near and dear to our own lives.  I am no different. Since 1998, my family has had to deal with the everyday burdens of dealing with children with autism.  Since 2002, based on my experiences seeing the difficulty families have understanding the science (or lack thereof) for various interventions, I have tried to find ways that information technologies can help.

What has resulted involves a lot of false starts and some positive impact, mainly supporting the communication needs for caregivers of children with autism.  I have received a lot of praise for this work, mainly because it is seen as a good thing to do for society.  In this talk, however, I want to emphasize some of the interesting challenges for computer scientists that emerge when we look at this kind of problem not just for the obvious humanitarian contributions (which still are my main motivation) but also in a way that will attract others who do not have such a personal stake in the solutions.


Gregory D. Abowd is the Distinguished Professor of Computing in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. He has been working in the area of ubiquitous computing since joining the faculty at Georgia Tech in 1994.  His focus is on applications in everyday environments, such as schools and homes. He is currently Director of the Aware Home Research Initiative, exploring applications related to health and sustainability.  He serves on the advisory committee for Autism Speaks Innovative Technologies for Autism efforts.  He is a 2007 ACM SIGCHI Social Impact Award and was elected to the CHI Academy in 2008.