Technology most of us take for granted can be life-changing for others

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

We enjoyed a Saturday Night Live skit about a nonexistent “Echo Silver” geared toward older users who might have trouble remembering the Amazon device’s “wake word,” by responding to anything remotely close.

If only that problem weren’t too close to the truth for many of us.

But older “early adopters” aren’t the only ones who are having trouble with the smart speakers.

“Alexa, we have a problem if my 2-year-old can order a Batman by yelling “Batman!” over and over again into the Echo,” tweeted Presidential Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

And Google isn’t immune to problems, as Chromecast video streamers and smart Home devices can suddenly swamp routers with data, crashing home Wi-Fi networks.

Amazon and Google smart speakers were a hot seller this holiday season and last, and the companies are sure to iron out problems as they arise.

Not all devices turn out that way. Amazon’s first smartphone was a failure with consumers, and Google’s Glass geeky smartglasses never caught on with the general public.

But don’t write Google Glass off just yet.

A new study enrolled eight children with autism spectrum disorder, along with their caregivers, to use Glass Enterprise Edition smartglasses loaded with assisted-reality apps for social-emotional learning and self-coaching related to brain-based challenges and needs.

The kids were able to take their time with the glasses, putting them on, taking them off and, for those who could talk, giving researchers their opinion about the devices.

At the end, all eight children found the device useful and practical, said they did not feel stressed or overwhelmed, and would be agreeable to using them at home and school.

We’ve all heard horror stories like Sarah Sanders’ child ordering a Batman figuring ($79), and concerns about the devices spying on us and being vulnerable to hacking.

Yes, many of us spend too much time interacting with our smartphones instead of people around us, but that doesn’t mean people with special needs can’t use some of the same technology to better connect with the world.

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