Hackathon to Create Autism Apps

Published Jun-03-13

Four breakthrough app ideas conceived and developed at the “Hacking Autism Hackathon by AT&T and Autism Speaks”. This was a two-day hackathon for brilliant app ideas for people on the autism spectrum.

AT&T/Autism Speaks, United States

The Story:

Hackathon to Create Autism Apps Hackathons are about getting things done. They are open innovation events where short bursts of intense activity by diverse groups of people tackle challenges and innovate.

There are hackathons all over the world focused on real problems across all industries including health, marketing, government, social activism, and trade. People from all walks of life can get involved and they come together to create in an environment conducive to innovation.

Creating Unique Apps

In April 2013, AT&T sponsored a two-day hackathon for helpful app ideas for the autism community. During this highly focused period of creative activity participants used APIs from AT&T's mobile platform to develop apps based on ideas crowd-sourced on the Facebook page of Autism Speaks. This is an organization that funds autism research.

More than 230 ideas had been submitted in four categories: verbal, non-verbal, school-age (K-12) and adult.

The overall goals were to improve the lives of the 1 in 88 children who are on the autism spectrum, and to raise awareness of the condition. “We know that technology offers important and exciting ways to unlock and enable the untapped potential in the thousands of people on the autism spectrum,” said Autism Speaks on their website.

Participants brought along their ideas, skills, and laptops. There were speaker events, pitching sessions, and networking. Teams there formed and then the serious business of innovating could begin.

The finished concepts were judged by a panel of technology and autism experts and they based their decisions on the originality of concepts, clarity of presentation, and use of a number of technologies.

There were four winners:

First place and check for $10,000 went to Puzzled, a yelp-like review website to identify autism-friendly businesses.

Second place and a check for $5,000 were awarded to Good List. This app helps autistic people, especially those who are nonverbal to keep track of the good and bad parts of their day. It also analyses the data so caregivers can spot patterns of note, and abnormalities.

Third place and a check for $2,500 went to a game-like interface called Making Friends. It gamifies the process of making social selections. The app allows individuals to make social decisions and then it gives them feedback on how other people might respond.

The winner of the Best Overall Autism App and a check for $2,500 was Playsplosion. This app helps individuals with autism to concentrate on calming by taking care of a virtual animal.

Help and Guidance

The organizers of the hackathon are on hand to offer guidance and support to those who want to bring their ideas to market. Whether or not the apps eventually get there, the hackathon was still a very useful exercise. Creative minds forged new connections, and health projects and organisations received clear insights into the apps and technologies that would make genuine differences to the autism community.

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