Human Computer Interaction specialists at Lancaster University are working with adults diagnosed with autism to develop prototype personalised wristband devices called Snap.

Snap is a customisable hand-made digital stretch wristband that enables people living with autism to better understand and manage their anxiety by digitally recording data when they are feeling anxious.

According to the researchers, people living with autism have a tendency to play with things in their hands when they are anxious.

“We wanted to build our own device and we thought that if we could digitise something they do anyway – play with things in their hands – then that could potentially help them to manage their anxiety,” said one of the researchers from Lancaster University, Dr Will Simm.

The Snap wristband includes a customisable 3D printed pod containing a computing unit. This enables users to freely modify and assemble their own devices by tapping into the growing number of community maker movements and open-source software.

Dr Simm says Snap is about empowering people with data to reflect about their anxiety. Snap records data when the wearer intentionally interacts with it, giving the wearer greater control of the information collection, an important consideration for people diagnosed with autism.

The captured data was retained on the device and can be downloaded onto a computer without reliance on cloud storage.

“Our approach has facilitated an understanding and management of anxiety through Snap interactions and data capture. The process of designing and building Snap has enabled our participants to discuss experiences of anxiety in a way their supporters said they had never before articulated,” said Dr Simm.

“It was also crucial that the project didn’t just focus on the build up to anxious states and so the device can also record data on wearers’ positive states as well,” continued Dr Simm.

The researchers say they are now looking at further developing the prototypes by refining the design and including additional features requested by the autistic study participants, such as a clickable button. An online platform to aid reflection is also being developed that will work with customisable and off-the-shelf wearable devices.

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