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Autism App Developers Compete at Google-Autism Speaks Pitch Playground

First, second and “audience choice” winners share $50K in prize money to develop and deliver digital apps for the autism community
March 12, 2015

Today at Google’s Cambridge, Mass., campus, autism app developers competed for a total of $50,000 in prize money in a rapid-fire “Pitch Playground” designed to fund the most promising digital applications for the autism community.

An expert panel of judges awarded first-prize winner Steve Espinosa $25,000 for PuzzlePiece, a tablet preloaded with visual social stories that families can personalize to help teach daily life skills to children with autism.

The $15,000 second prize went to Behavior Imaging Solutions for NODA (Naturalistic Observation Diagnostic Assessment), an app for screening children for red-flag behaviors that suggest autism.

The competition’s “audience choice” prize of $10,000 went to InfiniTeach, for an app that helps teachers and parents customize digital lesson plans for students with developmental disabilities.

Watch the full Pitch Playground below:

“Our pitch competition is meant to stimulate the development of novel technologies that improve quality of life and address the needs of people with autism,” said Dan Smith, Autism Speaks’ vice president for innovative technologies. Dr. Smith is also president of DELSIA, Autism Speaks’ not-for-profit venture philanthropy affiliate. “DELSIA and our generous partner Google teamed up to provide prizes that can make a real difference in helping the winning companies get their products to market.”

Ned Sahin, founder of Brain Power, gave the day’s keynote address. In it he urged aspiring entrepreneurs to "Think big!" about the long-term mission of their work while staying focused on the daily tasks before them.

Pioneering autism tech researcher Matthew Goodwin, of Northeastern University, moderated the competition and a panel-audience discussion. Dr. Goodwin serves as an advisor to Autism Speaks Innovative Technology for Autism initiative. 

Panel judges included Dr. Sahin, Thomas Biggins of Atlantis Technology, and Enrico Picozza of HLM Venture Partners.

The other app pitches in competition included:

Todd Kozikowski, co-founder and CEO of Yabidu, pitched his company’s healthcare app for facilitating the participation of patients and families in healthcare decisions.

Tom Ryden, of Que Innovations, pitched QueBall for smart phones, an electronic game designed to encourage interactive play.

CJ Miyake, of PixelAtion Labs, pitched a mobile app that incorporates wearable technology that teaches perspective-taking skills to children with autism.  

Dana Johnson, of the University of California-Davis School of Education, pitched Navigate Navigate Autism, a new website being developed to disseminate information to families of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Marie Duggan, of Autiknow, pitched her company’s app for helping individuals with autism process information and develop life skills more effectively.

Michele McKeone, of Autism Expressed, pitched her interactive learning system for teaching digital life skills to tweens and teens with autism.

Ryan Nicholson, of LearniTech, pitched the interactive iPad app Barn Door Four, designed to teach behavioral skills to 2 to 7 year olds with autism or other learning/developmental disabilities.

“We’re impressed with the dedication and important work being done by all the competitors,” Dr. Smith concluded. “We aim to keep it up next year and expand beyond apps and into wearables, robotics, virtual reality and other technologies.”



The Autism Speaks-Google Pitch Playground immediately followed Autism Speaks' third annual Autism Investment Conference (AIC2015) in nearby Boston and was open to conference participants.

To learn more about AIC2015 presentations, also see:

2015 Autism Speaks Autism Investment Conference Kicks Off in Boston
Third annual conference showcases investment opportunities that promise to address outstanding needs in the autism community
Autism Speaks 2015 Autism Investment Conference: Day 2 in Boston

Companies showcase investment opportunities in gaming platforms and employment/support services to meet needs of autism community