For the past 2 years, we have conducted studies in the form of research interviews, focus groups and participants’ observation. We have evaluated Cosmo with more than 80 therapists including physical, Occupational, Music Therapists and Special Education Needs experts and teachers and 100 users.
We have tried Cosmo with students who have severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties. Some of our users had cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries, autism and other social and communication difficulties. We have particularly focused on students who have autism. Cosmo is currently undergoing control trials with the School of Education at the University of Birmingham and Hamilton School and we are setting up two pilot projects with Mencap and one with Goldsmiths university.
Communication can often be of great difficulty for individuals with autism and there aren’t many interventions in place at schools. Students with autism have an affinity for new technologies and music, both elements that Cosmo entails. Additionally, most research so far has involved children at the higher end of the spectrum (i.e. cognitively and verbally able). Therefore, there is a pressing need to explore how new technologies can be used with participants who face severe and complex cognitive and language difficulties on top of their autism.
Our research has led us to create an system that is modular and customisable. Our users engaged with our instruments for extended time, the interaction was intuitive (we gave very minimal instructions to users) and we observed them developing skills throughout the course of each session. Their educators observed how their turn taking and eye contact skills improved after using Cosmo.
Amongst others, they found that it fosters:
We are currently testing our 5th generation of prototypes which we aim to test both qualitatively and qualitatively with an extended sample of users and therapists. Therefore we are looking for therapists, care-centers and rehabilitation-centers that will partner with us and provide us with feedback and suggestions. Amongst other benefits, research partners will receive free copies of our finalised product and add-ons and could work with us on further joint research projects and programs. We have arranged testing of our new product version with rehabilitation centers in San Francisco, London, Athens and Amsterdam. We are moreover discussing research partnerships with academic institutions in the UK.