Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) doesn’t disappear when children reach adulthood. According to a 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 2% of U.S. adults (5,437,988 in 2017) have ASD. One of the most common difficulties for people of all ages with ASD is recognizing emotions in others. A person with ASD often has no natural ability to pick up social or emotional cues during interactions with other people.

ITK Engineering GmbH, a German custom software and systems engineering firm, recently partnered with Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the University of Freiburg Medical Center, and six other German universities to study adults with ASD. ITK developed EVA (Emotionen Verstehen und Ausdrücken: understanding and expressing emotions), a digital training app as part of the study.

EVA is an Android app with professional actors who represent 40 different emotions such as joy, anger, and enthusiasm. The actors use facial expressions, vocal cues, and short skits to depict social interactions and emotions. During the study, 360 patients on the ASD spectrum will train with the app. At the conclusion of the training, researchers will compare and analyze the results of the digital app training with traditional group therapy.

According to Richard de Klerk, ITK Engineering Head of R&D Healthcare, the plan is to transform EVA into a web-based app. “This platform has to be as easy to use and as available as possible,” de Klerk said in an ITK news release. Personally, I have friends and loved ones on the spectrum: I’m a fan of tools that assist people who have trouble reading the cues that are obvious for most people. On a more general level, if the EVA web-based app is successful, it will be another good example of a digital healthcare tool people can access at home.