In its latest campaign themed around making human connections easier, Cox Communications is aiming to make video chat easier for people on the spectrum.
"Project Convey," developed with agency 180 LA for Autism Awareness month, is a prototype video chat system that helps people on the spectrum make more meaningful connections, by enabling them to understand the person on the other end.
The idea addresses a real issue: while video chat has become an everyday business for many over the past two years, for people on the autistic spectrum, interpreting people's emotions can be hard, particularly in the context of video chats.
The project is part of Cox's ongoing "Connections" campaign via 180 LA, which also included the "Drawn Closer" campaign that turned a middle school play into an animated short when it was canceled due to the pandemic, and a 2020 project that aimed to connected seniors feeling isolated due to COVID.
"Over the last two years, video chat has become a part of our everyday lives. It’s how we stay connected,” stated Mike Bokman, executive creative director at 180LA, in a statement. “But the truth is, the technology leaves out so many people on the spectrum who have a harder time reading non-verbal cues. That’s why we set out to create technology that makes video chat more inclusive; something that can help people on the autism spectrum process, interpret, and connect."
"We wanted to show that it’s possible to make video chat inclusive for people on the spectrum by creating technology that enables them to understand the person on the other end,” stated Mark Lawson, executive vice president and chief marketing and sales officer at Cox.
Using speech and facial recognition technology, the Project Convey prototype analyses facial expressions, words and tone of voice to interpret and assign meaning to video chat interactions, translating them instantly into a single emoji that can be more readily understood by individuals on the spectrum. Like traditional emojis, the prototype uses color and animation to convey emotion, but with this system the emojis reflect the emotions of the other chat user in real time. Unit9 was the tech production partner on the project.
Cox worked with real people to understand the challenges individuals on the autism spectrum have when using a video chat platform, and to bring the prototype to life. Some of these people feature in the campaign film, directed by Paul Hairston at Sanctuary, which is running on digital and social media.
Dr. Michelle Dean, who consulted on the Netflix series "Atypical," served as an advisor on the project.
“1 in 44 people is diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum and with shows such Netflix’s ‘Atypical’ and more recently, Amazon’s ‘As We See It’, autism is very much more in the public consciousness and getting the attention it deserves,” added Al Moseley, global chairman and chief creative officer at180LA. “The time has come for initiatives such as Project Convey.”