This is an archived course. A more recent version may be available at

Autism Theory and Technology

As taught in: Spring 2007

Student using wearable camera to capture in situ facial expressions.

Pilot at the Groden Center of wearable technology to capture facial expressions. (Photo taken by Paula Aguilera.)


Prof. Cynthia Breazeal

Dr. Rana el Kaliouby

Prof. Rosalind W. Picard

Prof. Sherry Turkle

MIT Course Number:




Course Description

This course will lay a foundation in autism theory and autism technology that significantly leverages and expands the Media Lab's ability to pioneer new technology. Students will not only develop new technologies, but also understand, help, and learn from people with autism, a fast-growing group that the CDC identified in the year 2005 as involving an estimated 1 in 150 school-age children ages 6-21. Students will gain an understanding of the basic challenges faced by people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, together with their families and caregivers, and an understanding of the fundamental theories that inform therapies and technologies for improving the autistic experience. The course will also explore the converging challenges and goals of autism research and the development of technologies with people sense. We will advance ways technology can be used for early detection and intervention in autism. We will enable new technologies for people diagnosed with autism to use to better communicate, and to help them achieve their desired level of independent and inter-dependent living skills. Throughout the course, we will consider ways technology can help inform autism research and improve opportunities for people diagnosed with autism.