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Deutsche Bank Hackathon: developing an app for autism

11 November 2016
Deutsche Bank Hackathon: developing an app for autism

This week Deutsche Bank and Autistica held a 24-hour hackathon event to develop an app that will help people with autism manage anxiety.

The content of the app will build on a paper-based anxiety toolkit created by Professor Emily Simonoff of King’s College London as part of a programme of research funded by Autistica.

‘Autism can pose huge challenges for individuals and their families, but many say things would be manageable if they had support to address mental health problems, like anxiety. They are often frustrated by the long waits to see expert clinicians and they suffer unnecessarily as a result.’ 

Professor Emily Simonoff from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London

More than 100 of the bank’s technology and design experts competed to build a prototype smartphone app harnessing the mental health research of Autistica. Joining them were students, technology undergraduates and autistic interns currently working at the bank.

A hackathon – a combination of the words hack and marathon – is a programming competition in which people develop ideas for new digital products in the space of a few hours.

Teams from seven cities worldwide sought to develop an app with three core functions: to provide information that helps users understand anxiety, offer advice on managing anxiety in the moment and share longer-term strategies.

The teams made use of video, heart rate and breathing monitors, and artificial intelligence as part of their apps. Autistica will take forward the best features of all 15 prototype apps produced over the 24 hours to develop a final app.

Jon Spiers, Chief Executive of Autistica, said: ‘It can sometimes take a long time for research to feed through to those who need it most, but through this hackathon, we can get our science turned into something practical and innovative immediately. By having experts with a wide range of skills coming together all at once, we can develop and test as we go.’

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