I am absolutely delighted to say that our commercial partners, Interface 3, have recently released the full version of the Click-East project app on iTunes, in the form of an update to the original app. This update has new content and features, and is available for both iPhone and iPad. In addition, the licence has recently been extended to cover an Android version for other kinds of tablet and smartphone, and if there is demand, it is hoped this will be available in the future.
Just to give you a recap, we originally designed the app using a team of researchers all working at the University of Edinburgh. The app was developed with a lot of input from parents, teachers, therapists and people with autism. We did design activities with kids in school, and loads of testing to see whether it worked well, and was appealing and fun for children with autism. And a full-scale randomised controlled trial is currently in progress to see whether playing the app has beneficial consequences for children with autism.
Then we handed it over to Interface 3. Their initial license was on a not-for-profit basis, and using this permission, they polished up the raw material and added a load of new features, principal among which was the option to play the game using a number of different accents and languages for the characters. Our research version used Scottish and English voices because that was the location where we would be doing our evaluation. But of course, iTunes is a global market so Interface 3 had to make their commercial version a lot more flexible. The Interface 3 version is called FindMe (Autism) and it is available for free on iTunes here. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to see what we’re trying to do with our work, or who wants to test out the app before deciding whether to buy the extended version (which is available in-app).
Now Interface 3 have released some more content which wasn’t available (because we hadn’t finished it yet!) when they first licensed the app. The new content is available as an in-app purchase, and it extends the original app both in quantity and quality. In particular, there’s a whole new section where the player’s task changes from identifying a person in a busy scene, to following a cue (looking and pointing) to find the object the character wants. This progression mimics how these skills are learnt in real life, across developmental stages, and therefore how we want to support children with autism to learn them too. Another exciting new feature of the new release is a record-your-own-voice setting which means anyone speaking any language can make this app suitable for their child. Although we didn’t design the app as a vocabulary trainer, lots of parents in our trial have reported that they think their child has learnt new words from playing it so we’re keen to support this option.
Finally, Interface 3 and I continue to work together to try to secure some external funding to support a project to create a whole family of new apps for children with autism. These will all aim to target the core difficulties that research and theory tell us are key skills in development. In addition, they will share with FindMe the unique design features that we’ve created to make our app as good as we can get it, for children with autism. If you have downloaded or tried out our app before, please do complete our online survey to tell us what you think. Or feel free to get in touch with your comments.