In recent years, the Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR) devices started to be recognized by consumers more than before. Although they are mostly used for entertainment purposes, for now, they have the technology to help people with disabilities in many different ways. People with ASD is one of the best possible user groups for these technologies, as they are known to have the tendency using technological devices (Lofland, 2016).
One of the well-known characteristics of autistic people is the general adaptation syndrome. People with the general adaptation syndrome feel uncomfortable when they face any changes in a place, on a schedule, or in a person. The adaptation syndrome seen in autistic people is mainly an outcome of sensory processing disorder (SPD). It is reported that 70-95% of ASD population is having challenges processing incoming sensations like light, sound, touch, taste, pain, smell, movement, or temperature (Case-Smith & Arbesman, 2008). They are either hyper or hypo-reactivity to sensory input (Rogers & Short, 2010). People with hyper-reactivity are overly responsive to sensory data, and they may show aggressive behavior in case they are exposed to sensory inputs. On the other hand, people with hypo reactivity are under-responsive to sensory inputs, and they may seem inactive, uninterested or withdrawn in the event of the one or even multiple sensory inputs (Coffin & Bassity, 2007).
During the daily routines of people, the environment change, and also the sensory inputs they need to process. The problem is that if autistic people with SPD experience more than one changes consecutively, this may trigger a meltdown. Meltdown is a reaction of autistic people when they have to undergo uncomfortable situations. These meltdowns are affecting the daily life of autistic people and the people around them. Although there are numerous applications available to assist autistic people in those situations, they lack the ability to adjust the space around autistic people immediately to calm them down.
A tool with the capability to customize the space quickly may be a help for people on the autism spectrum with SPD. Today in 2018, there is an accessible technology called mixed reality to modify the physical space without changing its physical features. It is merging virtual objects with real objects in an advanced space to produce new interactive environments (Brigham, 2017). Also, it differs from VR technology by enabling the integration of real and virtual worlds. So, this study suggests an interface to help the autistic people to be able to manage the meltdowns everywhere using MR technology.
The HoloLens device by Microsoft is one of the first advanced MR glasses released in 2016 operating on Windows platform. It is a stand-alone device with an optical-see-through display which enables the user to see the physical space blended with virtual space. Core features of HoloLens are gaze gestures, voice input, spatial sound, and spatial mapping. Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) helps HoloLens to understand gestures and the direction of the user look and adjust the holograms accordingly in real time. It also has spatial sound feature, which enables realistic sound for the holograms.
HoloLens has five visible-wavelength cameras that are tracking the head movements of the user in his/her present space. The one in the center can also take photos or record videos. Moreover, there is one infrared camera and infrared laser projector on the front face to scan objects in the room. There is also the Inertial Measurement Unit which includes an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a magnetometer to support the head tracking cameras for determining the position and the movement of the users head. In that way, HoloLens can understand the virtual objects from the correct perspective, and proportions (Taylor, 2016).
These facilities of HoloLens are recognized as a way to design and develop a spatial interface for people with ASD. Nevertheless, from 2016 to 2018 there have been only five apps* developed for autistic people on HoloLens even though there are hundreds of apps developed for personal computers (PC), tablets and mobile phones. The reason for this is the incompatibility of the current interface designs with MR technology. Therefore, there is a need to study on designing three-dimensional (3D) interfaces for autistic people to support developers creating applications in MR.