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Designing assistive tech for people with Asperger's that helps them make sense of other's emotions and hence improves social communication

Project Details

Universal Design Project 

Product Design | UX | Accessibility Design

Under guidance of:

Prof. Dr. Ravindra Singh


2 months (January'21-March'21)

Team (3):

Akash K. Seth, Ipshita Singh, Yamini Gupta

My role:


Synthesis and analysis,

Persona Building 



Application Design,

Visual Design

UPDATE: A project report of Atemo will be published in the Design For All Journal in its March 2021 edition.

Problem Overview 

Problem Overview

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests.


The prime reason why communication is difficult to fathom for an aspie (person with Asperger's) is that it is a complex blend of both verbal and non-verbal cues. A conversation consists of words, tone, body language, gestures, expressions, etc. Both neurotypical and aspie use verbal and non-verbal cues for communicating, but the aspie is able to primarily comprehend the words only.


Neurotypical communicator comprehends all

A message is both verbal and non- verbal

Aspie communicator focuses mainly on words

How Might We enhance the life of people with Asperger’s by making social communication easier for them?

Background Study and Research 


People with Asperger's are often grouped together with people having high-functioning autism, since they 'appear' to have no neurodevelopmental disorder.


Individuals with Asperger’s Disorder usually want to fit in and have interaction with others, but often they don’t know how to do it. They may be socially awkward, not understand conventional social rules or show a lack of empathy. They may have limited eye contact, seem unengaged in a conversation and not understand the use of gestures or sarcasm.

This difference makes them vulnerable to name calling and bullying. Beyond that, this hampers their relationships with people around them.



Weird Body Language


Too emotional

Disinterest in conversation


Fly On the Wall (YouTube Videos) 

As a part of research, we also referenced YouTube for real life case studies and anecdotes of people with Asperger’s, and to understand the problems that they face.

People with Asperger’s sometimes find it difficult to express themselves emotionally and socially. For example, they may:

  • have difficulty understanding gestures, facial expressions or tone of voice

  • be very literal in what they say and can have difficulty understanding jokes, metaphor and sarcasm. For example, a person with Asperger’s may be confused by the phrase ‘That’s cool’ when people use it to say something is good. 

On the other hand, people with Asperger’s don’t understand others as well in a social interaction setting. In a way, they do not "get" Neurotypicals. i.e. social nuances, communication patterns, style of dress etc. However, they mimic their actions etc. to fit in with society at large.


“I’m constantly trying to read everyone around me, which can take a great toll on me mentally”                                              -An Aspie

“Living with an Aspie is not easy. You need to live with this huge wall that restricts you both to understand each other.”

                               -A Neurotypical


Two Way Communication Barrier 


The dual problem of expressing own emotions and understanding other's emotions creates a two way communication barrier. 

This barrier penetrates into relationships, and causes emotional distress.

“To improve conversation and social interaction among people with Asperger’s and their peers, family members, strangers, etc. by making the emotions of one of them more easily comprehensible to another”

Mission Statement



Considering that the communication barrier exists on both sides, two persona were constructed: one for an aspie, and one for a neurotypical.



ASPIE | 25  



Rhea was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome in her early twenties.  


Since then she has been taking therapies to overcome the anxiety she faces while conversing with people, but nothing seems to help when it comes to a real life interaction.


- Memory and Retention

- High persistence to achieve goal


- To grow by developing social       skills and build good rep

- To make people aware about Asperger’s


- Gets anxious while exposed to some social event

- Poor conversation skills

- Inability to maintain personal and professional relationships


Arjun is Rhea’s elder brother. He has always taken care of Rhea while she was growing up.


He fears about her handling social conversations and remains tense about how she would manage and act individually.


He keeps a regular check on Rhea if she is going through any rough situations and tries to help her as soon as possible


- Maintain good social relations

- Offer maximum help and support to family

- Maintain efficient interaction with his sister


- Frequent frustration due to the inability to understand his sister

- InabilIty to devote sufficient time to personal life





Concept Ideation 


With the key problem areas noted and the user set defined, a definite clarity was established as to what issues the solution needs to address. Ideation was commenced taking three principles/scenarios in mind:

  1. To make a person with Asperger’s understand the emotions of a neurotypical, 

  2. To make a neurotypical understand the emotions of a person with Asperger’s, and 

  3. To make them both understand each other’s emotions.

High Intent to converse

Nothing too 


Words over pictures: concise message



#1: A band styled device that collects information of emotions of the wearer (person with Asperger’s) and notifies their close family members and friends of extreme distressing emotions

- Technologically Feasible

- Portable

- Discrete

- Intent of Usage: Moderate

- Impact of Usage: Moderate


#2: A playful ball that can read the user (person with Asperger’s) heart beat and then deduce the emotion they're feeling, and then express it to other people through a change in colour.

- Technologically Feasible

- Not Portable

- Not Discrete

- Intent of Usage: Low

- Impact of Usage: Moderate


#3: A band that collects the information of the wearer's (person with Asperger’s) emotions through their heart beat and pulse reading and communicates it to the other person either through an auditory or a visual cue.

- Technologically Feasible

- Portable

- Discrete

- Intent of Usage: Low

- Impact of Usage: Moderate

#4: A hexagon that has custom messages pertaining to some emotions that the person with Asperger’s can show to the neurotypical to explain better what emotion they're feeling.

- Technologically Feasible

- Not Portable

- Not Discrete

- Intent of Usage: High

- Impact of Usage: Moderate


#5: A device that when once attached to an existing toy can change its face to show the different emotions that the user is feeling

- Not Technologically Feasible

- Not Portable

- Not Discrete

- Intent of Usage: High

- Impact of Usage: Moderate

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#6: Dual system based interface that captures emotions of the neurotypical and translates for person with Asperger’s

- Technologically Feasible

- Portable

- Discrete

- Intent of Usage: High

- Impact of Usage: HIgh

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Atemo is a watch to be worn by a person with Asperger’s, that will then capture sound waves of the other person (with whom the person with Asperger’s) is conversing, extract the emotion from the tone, and relay this information to the person with Asperger’s using vibration patterns.


This watch comes supported with a mobile application, that facilitates easier adaptation and remembrance of the vibration patterns. It also tracks your Pulse rate, Blood Pressure, etc and translates that information into ‘stress’ and ‘no stress.’


This information can be shared to the closest friends and family members upon the consent of the person with Asperger’s. This helps establish a two way transfer of information, which assists in bridging the communication barrier that exists among them.


Part 1: The Technological Functionality

1: Technological Functionality

1. Capturing of Audio

The wristwatch is embedded with two microphones in its extended arms that capture the audio waves to be further processed.

2. Translated into vibration

The audio waves captured are then bifurcated into metadata in terms of environment (noise), content (words), and emotion(tone.) The emotion is then further analysed, and stored in the content history to be referred to and made patterns out of. With the help of the previously stored data and machine learning, emotional classification is done and the subsequent unique vibration pattern is used as an output. 

3. Information relayed to application (Person with Asperger’s) 

A supporting application interface has been built to help people with Asperger’s learn what every unique vibration pattern means. Other than that, the application also provides hands-on assistance as to what to do in case of every emotion exhibited by the communicator. 


4. Capturing of health statistics

Throughout, important health statistics of the wearer (person with Asperger’s) is recorded by the wristwatch, just as it is done in contemporary fitness smartwatches. This information is then processed to find out the stress levels of the wearer (person with Asperger’s.)


5. Information relayed to application (Friends/Family members)

This information is then sent to the application of Friends and Family members, to whom the person with Asperger’s has given the permission to view their health details. If the stress levels are high, the friends and family members are notified via an alert. This helps them understand and empathise better, hence subsequently bridging the existing gap of communication.

Part 2: Wristwatch

2: Wristwatch

Form Exploration 

With the idea of ideating a watch the product’s functions and the aspiration of the user were mapped which resulted in the guiding principles for the form and further development. The attributes selected were: 

  • Easily Perceivable

  • Instant Feedback

  • Camouflaged

  • Subtle

  • Tactile

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Sensitive Vibration Sensation

The watch contains vibration motors to provide sensitive and distinct vibrations for every emotion that it detects.

Retina Display

Always on retina display to keep the user informed. With an increased size screen the information is clearly visible on a single glance.

Emergency Hover Button

 A quick access hover button to call assistance in extreme situations where immediate assistance is required.

Watch Face and Application Window

The watch screen contains a watch face which displays the time, date and any new notifications.


The UI has been designed to make the user understand and capture the information in a single glance. Next, in the application window, three main applications are incorporated: the Atemo assist application which provides customization for the watch itself, the health status app for continuous monitoring of the health, and notification for easy access of notifications.

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Sound to Emotion

The display screens that would guide and inform the user of the process of capturing sound waves and detecting the emotion.

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Emotion Displays

For easy identification and quick interpretation of the emotion each emotion has been colour coded.

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Part 3: Mobile Application

3: Mobile Application

Information Architecture

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Future Roadmapping

Future Roadmapping 

1. Usability Testing of concept by people with Asperger's, since all research conducted bas been secondary in nature.

2. Research upon alternative use cases and scenarios where Atemo can be used: Accessibility to Inclusive Design.

3. Think of affordability.

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