Interview with Samuel Toth – co-founder of Auti-mate, the online video game that develops strengths and talents of those with autism

logo_320x80Auti-mate – is a Budapest based start-up that develops talent discovery and development video games for children with autism.

Auti-mate.com will host a collection of games that will cover a wide spectrum of autistic savant skills, such as visual analytic skills, understanding of mechanical systems, memory and systematic thinking.

Auti-mate.com is a first-of-its-kind tool that enables parents to work on their autistic child’s strengths.

The prototype includes two games. Blocks, an advanced puzzle game that builds on the autistic talent in visual thinking. The other game, Gears is about understanding clockwork-like mechanical systems.

The game prototypes also feature a finely tuned autism friendly user interface and gameplay. The design is highly structured and predictable, enabling the players to focus exclusively on the task. It provides a rewarding and relaxing gaming experience, in which school-aged children with autism can experience their strong side and succeed.

Auti-mate.com aims to have a working product available by Christmas this year. I was incredibly lucky to be able to get in touch with co-founder, Samuel Toth, and he answered some of our questions.


What was the inspiration/vision behind setting up Auti-mate?

Auti-mate helps to discover and cultivate the cognitive strengths of people on the autism spectrum. These serious games were designed to rely on cognitive skills that are potential talents of autistic children. While the children have a great engaging time, parents and therapists get a great overview of where the strengths of that particular child are. By finding talent skills children are empowered to find their productive roles in society and become independent adults.

We know a great number of exceptional autistic talents from the past (e.g. Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein) and from the present (e.g. Stephen Wiltshire or Daniel Tammet), and if investigated with scientific rigour 28.5% of individuals with autism show extraordinary cognitive abilities (Howling et al. 2009). Yet, these assets are rarely discovered by parents and therapists and even more rarely developed into a full blown productivity asset for adults on the autism spectrum.

We need to empower children to find their strengths and to develop those into real life assets. The serious games of Auti-mate assess cognitive skills that are likely to be above average in autism and the games help to improve those skills further.

itasdCan you tell me a little about the people who are involved?

We are 3 Hungarian guys living and working across Europe with passion to build smart products to solve social problems.

Samuel Tóth, software designer – Samuel started his career as a developer, now he works as a digital product designer. He worked for several years in start-up environments, has experience in game development, digital marketing, and productivity tools. Enthusiastic about simple and clean design. His niece who lives with autism inspired him to found Auti-mate.

Ognjen Bubalo, software engineer – Ogi is an experienced software engineer with several different technology skills. He’s worked at many top companies, also participated open source projects as parts of Google Summer of Code. His main motivation comes from his brother with autism.

Zsombor Várnagy-Tóth, psychologist – Zsombor has worked in Hungary’s top university (ELTE) in the field of autism for 6 years. His research topic is how the brain of people with autism process information. He is especially interested what is in autism that leads to talent and disability in the same time. He worked on various software for people with autism, including a tool that aims to diagnose those cases that are otherwise would remain hidden a smartphone app, called HANDS, that was designed to help teenagers to follow schedules and do smaller tasks independently.
The team did evidence based testing of the effectiveness of these tools, including randomised controlled trials and eye-tracking technology.

Currently he works as a UX researcher, and he is among the first people on Earth who have ever done user testing and usability research regarding the special needs of people with autism.

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About Jo Worgan

Jo Worgan is a published author, writer and blogger. She has a degree in English Literature. She writes about life with her youngest son who is on the autistic spectrum. Jo tweets (@mummyworgan) and is also a freelance columnist for the Lancaster Guardian. ‘My Life with Tom, Living With Autism‘ is her second book and a culmination of her blog posts, and available on Kindle now, along with her first book, Life on the Spectrum. The Preschool years.