Sunday, April 6, 2014

Research on Visual Perspective Taking (VPT) and Theory of Mind (ToM)

TATTS is by no means an academic research project.  However, given our emphasis on helping kids with autism improve their perspective taking skills, we try to understand the current thinking around the issues of autism and it's impact on perspective taking.  Two key concepts that much of the research in this area evaluate are Visual Perspective Taking (VPT) and Theory of Mind (ToM).  Here are definitions:

  • Visual Perspective Taking - Level 1 is the ability to understand that other people have a different line of sight to ourselves
  • Visual Perspective Taking - Level 2 is the understanding that two people viewing the same item from different points in space may see different things
  • Theory of Mind - the ability to attribute mental states such as beliefs, intents, desires, knowledge, etc. to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one's own.

Here is a link to a review of 13 recent studies that focus on the topic of autism and its impact on perspective taking.  Not exactly light reading but excellent nonetheless. 

The review concludes that researchers need to "...tease apart impairments in the spatial demands of a task vs. the social."  For all of us involved with autism, that sure sounds familiar.  The research review also states that a whole lot more research is needed "The recommendations set out in this review provide a strong motivation for investigating VPT in autism and shed light on why findings so far are inconsistent."  Maybe the TATTS project's use of drones to gather spatial data, our manipulation of that data, and our practicing of social skills throughout can give some of these researchers new insights!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

TATTS Featured on 'The UAV Digest' Podcast

A big thank you to David Vanderhoof and Max Flight for featuring the TATTS Project on episode #32 of The UAV Digest podcast.  The UAV Digest is a weekly podcast that focuses on all things related to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).  They gave us ample time to talk about autism and how it impacts people on the spectrum and how TATTS leverages the strengths of kids with autism such as visual thinking and attention to detail. 

Dan and I were thrilled to be able to share the great things the TATTS team accomplished. Give it a listen in your web browser here.  Our hope is that listeners will hear this great story and be interested in replicating it in other places to reach more kids.

TATTS team member editing footage during movie production

Friday, March 7, 2014

Interacting With 3D Point Clouds Derived From Our UAS

Here are 3 brief video clips of TATTS team members interacting with the 3D point clouds derived  from the aerial imagery we collected via our UAS.

Aerial Images and Resulting Point Cloud

Flying through the building.  Now you see the resemblance to MineCraft

Taking Measurements

Friday, February 28, 2014

TATTS team uses Pix4D to create 3D point clouds

There is a lot of software available for viewing and processing imagery that is collected from the air with unmanned aerial systems (UAS).  One of the market leaders is Pix4D.  Located in western Switzerland on the shores of Lake Geneva and founded by Christoph Strecha, this company brings together computer vision and multi-ray photogrammetry to provide software that allows you to, amongst other things, create 3D models based on the imagery taken from a UAS.

We downloaded an evaluation copy of the software and processed through a sample of our data to give the kids a feeling for how it works.  The model that was generated is comprised of about 1,000,000 3-dimensional points (referred to collectively as a 'point cloud') that have actual X, Y and Z coordinates and are colored based on the source imagery.  You can move through the point cloud, take measurements and extract data from it.  Mapping companies do this sort of thing regularly.

The clip below is a TATTS team member - Mitchell - interacting with the point cloud within Pix4D.  You gotta love his excitement.  Notice in the beginning the 20 or so images that are floating in the air.  Those are the pictures taken from our hexarotor.  Notice too that when he clicks on the ground the red lines show which images can see that particular point.  You need at least 2 images to have the same point in order to generate a 3D model.

Interestingly, if you zoom in tight enough, the individual points in the point cloud look like small blocks.  Guess what game that reminded him of?  Watch the video and you'll see. 

Here is a screen shot from Pix4D of the point cloud.


Friday, February 21, 2014

The TATTS Project is Keynote Presentation at GIS Conference

We submitted an abstract to the Wisconsin Land Information Association (WLIA) conference to tell the amazing story of what our kids accomplished as part of the TATTS Project.  The conference organizers liked the idea so much they asked if we'd present it as a keynote to all 500+ attendees (city/county/state employees, educators, utilities, and engineeering/survyeing/mapping companies all interested in using GIS to understand our world). 
The presentation was wonderfully received.We covered the issues of autism and employment, drone/UAS technology, and how the two can be combined to help visual thinkers with social skills like perspective taking. 

It's 50+ minutes long so if you don't have that much time, jump to around 27-30 minute marks and see the kids get introduced.  Several were at the presentation (skipped out of school) and took a bow as the crowd applauded.  It was awesome!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We are published!

Professional Surveyor Magazine has published an article on the TATTS project that showcases all the great things that the TATTS team accomplished this summer.  It is written toward surveying and mapping professionals and includes some lessons learned that they can incorporate into their business as they consider using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) such as our hexarotor.  You gotta love a bunch of kids teaching professionals how to leverage new technology...

The on-line article is availabe here.

Take a look at the video of Mitchell describing the article.  Good stuff.  He'll probably need to sign autographs now seen as how he considers himself famous...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Presenting TATTS and UAS

I had the honor of keynoting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's GIS Day on November 20th, 2013.  GIS Day is an annual event held throughout the world to promote Geographic Information Systems and geographic awareness.  This year's event was sponsored by the UW-Madison GeoSpatial Alliance, held at the UW's Institute for Science and Discovery, and attended by approximately 100-150 people from both the local area and other universities such as UW-Eau Claire.

My talk focused on the emerging marketing of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) of which the hexarotor we built is one type of UAS.  The presentation was oriented toward professionals and collect students who utilize GIS technology for mapping and analysis.  Many of them were students in environmental sciences, geography or related disciplines. 

One primary aspect I focused on was what amazing things the TATTS team did throughout the summer of 2013.  I used a handful of our videos and photomosaics to show what is possible.  I was so pleased to see how engaged the audience was and impressed by what great things are possible by our kids!