A therapeutic kinect application for children with ASD

Role: Researcher | Interaction Designer | Developer

Tools: Photoshop | Processing | Kinect

April 2014 - June 2015 Undergraduate Research Assistant 


Professor Andrew Palermo teaches a therapeutic movement class to children on the autism spectrum to help them become more aware of their extremities. However, as only one person who teaches this unique class, his material is not easily accessible to people outside of Orange County. Despite his attempt to share an outline of his course online, students miss out on the beneficial feedback and socialization aspect of the class. 


A digital version of his class widely accessible to kids who cannot make it to his physical class.  Using the kinect, kids interact with a minecraft animated character who leads them through Andrew's class exercises. As they move throughout the exercises the app gives them feedback on their movement both visually and audibly. The points they earn from correct movement can be used for diamonds in their minecraft account. 



I began by interviewing Andrew and observing his dance classes to inform interaction decisions. Next I ran a pilot study with another Kinect game to see how my user group interacted with the system.  

Take aways: 

1. Kids progressing at their own rate was encouraged during Andrew's class

2. Kids responded better when feedback was provided in multiple ways: visually and audibly 

2. During Andrew's class kids were easily distracted


Pilot study

After completing a working prototype of the kinect app, I assisted the graduate research lead with facilitating a pilot study at the local Center for Autism. I designed the study and tasks to be completed by the participants. I observed 19 kids interact with the prototype and provided recommendations for future iterations of the app based on my analysis. 


1. Implement the option to change the speed at which the animated exercise is played

2. Keep a white background, participants were less distracted

The first released version of Dancecraft recently became available to families as of January 2017!

* Limited permissions to share data