New York – Ard Jacobs, master student at the Technical University Eindhoven has not yet graduated and is already in the Wall Street Journal with his ‘Pillo’. It is a game controller in the form of a cushion; it helps children with autism and ADHD to calm down and to concentrate.
He does this through a shared game in which two people have to cooperate to move a pointer around a screen collecting tokens and avoiding obstacles. Rather than using normal controllers, the two players use his “pillo” controllers – one controls vertical movement, the other horizontal. Simply squeezing or pressing the cushion causes the pointer to move.He said the choice of a cushion was obvious. “It is already an emotional thing. It is comforting. People have a rich interaction with it. By working together on a shared task, said Mr. Jacobs, parent and child have to communicate. But crucially for autism sufferers who often have difficulty in intuiting other’s intentions, communication between the two players moves to the non-verbal.Mr. Jacobs admits that the technology has yet to be tested. “We are planning to do longitudinal testing,” but in an informal test with a friend and his nine year-old son who has autism, proved successful.“While they normally get easily wound up by each other, they played for 30 minutes. At the end they both had this big smile, and were quiet and felt they were doing something together. They felt it was a unique experience.”How the pillo works Mr. Jacobs, a masters student at Eindhoven University of Technology, would not say, he has applied for a patent, but aside from where the wire connects with the device, there is nothing hard inside. “You can hit someone on the head with the pillo without hurting them.”