News

USC ICT and The Dan Marino Foundation Partner with Magic Leap to Deliver Spatial Computing Experience for Individuals with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities

October 10, 2018

Next-generation virtual human job interview practice system soon available on Magic Leap One.

For more information, please contact Sara Preto, 310-301-5006, preto@ict.usc.edu.

Studies show that young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may experience challenges in finding employment. Though young adults with ASD are often high educational achievers and have the ability to work, the United Nations estimates that more than 80% are unemployed.

In a new partnership between Magic Leap, the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies and The Dan Marino Foundation, collaborators have developed a tool using mixed reality that helps young adults with ASD overcome an important obstacle they may face entering into the workforce — in-person job interviews. The Virtual Interactive Training Agent (VITA), now in mixed reality on Magic Leap One, is a virtual simulation job interview practice system that builds competence and reduces anxiety.

“The partnership with Magic Leap and The Dan Marino Foundation gave us the opportunity to push the limits of spatial computing technology for a really important pro-social purpose,” said Albert “Skip” Rizzo, director of Medical VR for USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies. “VITA was designed to help those who need it most to practice job interviews in a safe and controlled environment, allowing them to get more comfortable over time and reach their full potential. The application of technology in this way could serve to improve the employment opportunities for persons on the Autism Spectrum and we are excited about expanding our work in this direction for other groups who could benefit from this approach.”

VITA provides the opportunity for ASD users to repetitively practice job interviewing in a safe simulated environment. While it is recognized that many persons with ASD have the necessary capabilities for success in vocational activities, many report that the process of engaging in a job interview is anxiety provoking, as well as socially and verbally challenging; these factors may limit their success in job seeking situations and aid to the high unemployment rate.

“Working with Magic Leap and The Dan Marino Foundation has been a great experience,” said Arno Hartholt, director of R&D Integration for USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies. “We got our first prototype up and running very quickly, so that we could collaboratively explore how to get the most out of this new computing platform. It’s still early days, but the potential for how this kind of technology can help people is enormous.”

“The systems being developed through our partnership with USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies and now Magic Leap are game changers for the future of young adults with Autism and other disabilities,” said Mary Partin, CEO of The Dan Marino Foundation. “Over the past four years employment rates for Marino Campus students are averaging 72%. The Dan Marino Foundation is now expanding this technology in working with youth in the Juvenile Justice system where employment is a factor in reducing recidivism.”

“At Magic Leap, we strive to impact lives and make a difference – that’s why we’re so excited about this collaboration. We see this as the first step of many in taking action to help empower those individuals with Autism or other developmental disabilities in each step of their journey with valuable life skills. We hope that this technology can help level the playing field and be an enabling tool to improve quality of life and humanity,” said Brenda Freeman, Chief Marketing Officer at Magic Leap.

VITA offers a variety of possible job interview role-play interactions supporting the practice of job interviewing skills across a range of challenge levels and allows for customizable training geared to the needs of the user. VITA for Magic Leap One will be available soon.

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ABOUT THE USC INSTITUTE FOR CREATIVE TECHNOLOGIES:
The USC Institute for Creative Technologies develops award-winning advanced immersive experiences that leverage groundbreaking research technologies and the art of entertainment to simulate human capabilities. Influencing the trajectory of technological exploration and advancement, USC ICT’s mission is to use basic and applied research that benefits learning, education, health, human performance, and knowledge.

ABOUT THE DAN MARINO FOUNDATION:
The Dan Marino Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 organization was established by Dan and Claire Marino, motivated by their experiences in raising their son, Michael, who is diagnosed with Autism. For over 26 years, the Foundation has been a leader in innovation and change, “empowering individuals with Autism and other developmental disabilities.” The Foundation has raised more than $72 million to create unique and impactful initiatives in the community. Among these first-of-their-kind initiatives are the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Dan Marino Outpatient Center, the Marino Autism Research Institute, Marino Adapted Aquatics, Summer STEPS Employment Programs, Virtual Interactive Training Agent Program (ViTA-DMF), and now post-secondary programs at both Marino Campus in Broward and at FIU in Miami-Dade. For more information, please visit  danmarinofoundation.org, marinocampus.org  or ViTADMF.org.