Lab to improve child autism intervention in China

Professor Ming Li and his team held an activity on campus for World Autism Awareness Day, April 2, to show how AI can be used to detect facial expressions

Duke Kunshan has launched a joint research laboratory with Dami & Xiaomi, a leader in child autism intervention, to improve early diagnosis of the developmental disorder in China.

The move aims to promote the application of big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and cutting-edge technologies to drive forward research in autism, a neurological condition characterized by difficulties in social interaction and communication, and restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior and interest.

‘Early diagnosis and intervention are critical to reduce progressive symptom development in children with autism,’ said Ming Li, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke Kunshan, who will lead the lab.

‘My team has been conducting research on using multimodal signal processing and machine learning techniques to record and analyze behavioral data, such as facial expressions, movements, speech and eye movements, to transform doctors’ subjective behavioral observation into objective and quantifiable descriptive indicators for AI-aided diagnosis of autism.’

The research has achieved substantial outcomes: The AI system designed by Li’s team has an 80 percent accuracy rate in diagnosing autism in children as young as 2 years old.

The joint lab will build on these accomplishments by using years of field data accumulated by Dami & Xiaomi, which provides knowledge services, on-site intervention training, integrated education support services and a full care system.

Founded in 2014, Dami & Xiaomi is a leading platform for children with autism in China. Its training centers and integrated services in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen serve thousands of young people, and its online consulting services and courses have helped more than 100,000 families.

Xiaolin Chang (left), Duke Kunshan’s vice chancellor for government relations, and Dami & Xiaomi CEO Yingshuang Jiang at the opening ceremony

‘The challenges in autism intervention services in China include the deficiency of experienced professionals, incomplete intervention system and high cost,’ said Yingshuang Jiang, CEO of Dami & Xiaomi. ‘The application of big data and AI is expected to alleviate such problems and enable more families with autistic children to access affordable services. We’re very pleased to be conducting joint research with Duke Kunshan for this purpose.”

According to the partnership agreement signed on June 6, research findings from the lab will be applied to screening and intervention programs for children with autism at Dami & Xiaomi’s training centers.

Both parties will also further explore the use of AI in speech processing, computer vision, natural language processing, emotional computing, and machine learning for automatic analysis and modeling of medical and behavioral data.

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