For all the griping and joking about the alienating effects of smartphone technology, it's worth remembering that ubiquitous mini computers can actually help people socialize—even people who struggle with basic forms of communication.
Samsung is capitalizing on research that suggests kids with autism like interacting with digital devices, by teaming up with South Korean universities to develop a free Android app designed to help children on the spectrum learn how to better make eye contact, and recognize facial expressions.
Ad agency Cheil Worldwide helped create the educational game, titled "Look at Me." After eight weeks of testing, 60 percent of the children showed improvement in making eye contact, according to a survey of parents. (The case video doesn't say how many children were tested, but does include enthusiastic general testimonials from psychology experts.)
The app's use of a smartphone camera to address children's health makes it slightly reminiscent of the U.K. public service campaign launched last month to teach parents how a flash picture could help identify a dangerous form of eye cancer.
Samsung's work suffers from the notable distinction that it comes from a marketer, rather than a nonprofit—while the consumer tech giant claims the point isn't to promote its products, that is, of course, in part, exactly the point.
Still, the brand deserves credit for devoting resources to addressing a real problem—in Canada, Samsung has partnered with Autism Speaks to give away 200 tablets with the app preloaded to families of children with autism. (The advocacy organization also has more information on autism and smartphone apps, generally.)
Though with 60 million people suffering from autism worldwide, Samsung could probably still afford to donate a few more.