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Tactile Art Device Helps Children with Autism

  • July 31, 2015
  • By a2ru      
A device developed in combination with Michigan College of Engineering and The Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning supports a tactile coloring book that allows children with autism to engage in collaborative play.


An inability to perceive how much pressure one is putting on a certain object is but one of the many unique issues that children with autism spectrum disorder can have. Researchers David Chesney, Sean Ahlquist, and their respective students have taken aim at enabling treatment for this disability by way of a new device that acts as a touch sensitive coloring book.

A large screen of spring loaded fabric is stretched over a frame with a projector and a Microsoft Kinect placed behind it. The projector projects the image onto the screen and as the patient pushes in the screen is colored, meanwhile the Kinect sensor measures the depth of pressure that they’re applying to the screen changing the hue of the color they’re applying.

This device could be the key to collaborative play for many children with autism and with more testing and validation could see widespread use in treatment centers around the world.

David Chesney is a Lecturer IV of Computer Science and Engineering. His research interests include: software engineering, object oriented methodologies, unified modeling language, socially relevant computing, and assistive technology. In his courses, a specific childhood cognitive or physical disability is chosen as the target for the entire semester. Medical professionals are invited into the course to discuss the disability and often a family with a member who has that disability becomes highly involved with the course. From there, his students develop a new technology aimed specifically at helping certain aspects of that disability.

Sean Ahlquist is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. He is a part of the Cluster in Computational Media and Interactive Systems which connects Architecture with the fields of Material Science, Computer Science, Art & Design and Music. Ahlquist teaches courses at all levels, including on-going involvement with the Master of Science in Material Systems program. Research and course topics are centered on material computation, developing articulated material structures and modes of design which enable the study of their material and spatial behaviors.