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XR Brain Jam 2018

"Head On"

Helping families with autism see eye-to-eye through augmented reality.

My role

Designer, Developer, and 3D modeler.

How was the

process like?

Frantic rhythm over 2 days, constant iterations, team work and constant communication is key to success.

Who is our user?

Special needs educators, parents, students, curious souls, XR explorers that are willing to know a bit more on how to improve the lives of individuals in the autism spectrum disorder.


Our project Head On won best product potential at 2018 XR Brain Jam organized by Games for Change, and continues to spread awareness about autism spectrum disorder.

Participating in XR Brain Jam is always an extraordinaire joy, our team of developers and designers was paired with neuroscientist Marc Coutanche from University of Pittsburgh University, PhD university profesor speciallized on neural systems.


Children in the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often find eye contact aversive and intimidating. Current scientific studies suggest the amygdala (the brain’s fear center) of ASD individuals is overly responsive to direct eye contact. 

Unfortunately for this individuals growing up and socializing while avoiding eye contact leads to impoverished social exposure and can be a barrier to family bonding and integration.

Our objective with this project was to help children with ASD become more comfortable with making eye contact with family and friends.


Our AR Proposal

For our project we decided to use Augmented Reality as our primer tool to take advantage of current gaze tracking technology plus its innate ability to blend with reality in ways such as face filters. 


We wanted to make our prototype platform agnostic in hopes of being used in future AR wearable glasses. The main mechanic is making the user with Autism Spectrum Disorder look at a person through the AR device.


The main idea lays in replacing human faces, specially the area of the eyes with a fun character, such a robot, or an animal, or similar images inspired in games or popular culture such as pokemons.


The gamification of eye contact will be a key factor, as the user’s gaze stays on the eye region parts of the cartoon will fade away. You can see here the robot starts to reveal the persons face, and continued eye contact will trigger different visual rewards.


Lessons Learned And Potential Next Steps

Although two days is such a short timeframe to come with a finish product we are confident that the ideation, the design thinking and our research could be aplicable to larger and funded projects in the future.


We built a quick prototype in Unity using ARKit 2 face tracking and eye tracking features, but this prototype pretend to focus in future glasses for Augmented Reality technology which will be available to the mainstream in less than 5 years.


We would love to keep exploring the XR gamification in ADS therapy, since it has been proven to be effective in more traditional settings such as computers or tablet games.


Our Team

Marc Coutanche

University of Pittsburgh



Stephen Radachy

Target Corporation

Software Egineer


Pilar Aranda

Mixed Reality HCI Designer



Saul Pena Gamer

The Glimpse Group

XR Developer


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