Worldwide, diagnosis of autism is traditionally a very manual process, one that is labour intensive, expensive, prone to error and without any room for observation. Dutch-based Autitouch has developed an innovative solution that uses Microsoft Surface technology to enable children to play ‘serious games’ that help the medical profession make more accurate diagnoses.
Using cloud technology, Autitouch creates an environment that medical professionals the world over can use to share their results, help spot trends and look for further ways to improve autism diagnosis. Founder and CEO Freena Eijffinger came up with the idea for Autitouch after her brother went through seven years of medical investigation in the Netherlands, their home country, before being finally diagnosed. She was shocked with the length of the diagnosis process, so she decided to look into how technology can be used to develop a better way.
Autitouch uses a table that incorporates multi-touch technology, which removes any barriers created by the conventional mouse/monitor/keyboard configuration. This conventional PC setup does not take into account the often limited motor skills and action-reaction typical of people with autism. Autitouch uses Microsoft Surface touch technology for the hardware/user interface. The data and analytics take place within the SQL Azure environment and the sharing of data is enabled in the cloud using the Windows Azure platform.
Autitouch developed a suite of games that the child or young adult can play, while the medical professional observes and the computer back-end processes the data. As well as diagnoses, this Autitouch solution can be used to benchmark improvements over a period of time. Since the data is uploaded anonymously into the cloud, the information can be used by universities worldwide to learn about autism.
Launched in December 2010, Autitouch has 7 employees to date across psychology, finance, R&D and admin. The company’s first financing came from a government SBIR grant of € 300K. Autitouch is actively seeking further funding to take this exciting innovation to the next stage. The solution has gone through an initial validation process with medical professionals in the Netherlands. The results were profound: medical professionals indicated that evidence of the first Autitouch solution trial, involving around 300 Dutch children, may demonstrate that the established basis for autism diagnostics might be flawed and needs to be reviewed.
Autitouch delayed its commercial launch, for which it has 23 pilot partners and three customers already lined up. But once launched, the solution could have a very significant and ultimately positive impact on worldwide autism diagnosis. Autism has grown by over 600 per cent in the past two decades and the latest estimate indicates that autism affects at least 2 per cent of the population in most developed countries.
Autitouch received support from the Microsoft BizSpark program. Freena is delighted that “BizSpark has been a big help: our local contact Mark Voermans has been great in helping to find funding, creating PR buzz and putting us in front of and in touch with all kinds of key people and organisations worldwide.”
Any start-up entrepreneur has to be applauded, but Freena deserves a special mention. As she says, “It will be great if this is a success, but I’m not in this for the money: I just want to see better and faster autism diagnosis, so that future children and their families will not have to wait as long as my brother did for a solution.”