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Advanced software enhances learning opportunities for children

Media release

An advanced early learning tool developed by Curtin University researchers to assist children with Autism Spectrum Disorder has won the 2011 Curtin Commercial Innovation Awards.

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The Toby Playpad software, developed by Professor Svetha Venkatesh, Dr Stewart Greenhill and Dr Dinh Phung, from Curtin’s Institute of Multi Sensor Processing & Content Analysis, is a computer-based interactive tool designed to enhance the learning opportunities and experience of autistic children, as well as displaying broader potential for use as a generalised early learning tool for all children.

Director of Curtin’s Office of IP Commercialisation, Rohan McDougall, said the innovative software was a milestone in easy-to-use, time-saving technology that would assist therapists and parents to deliver high-performance early learning programs to children.

“The Toby Playpad is unique in its advanced performance-based tracking and reporting functions, which will save therapists and parents valuable time that they would otherwise spend manually evaluating and recording a child’s performance and progress,” Mr McDougall said.

“No other product on the market is able to perform this time saving function, so this technology is quite special in that respect.

“Other features include its multi-touch interactive platform allowing simultaneous interaction between the child and therapist, as well as a reward based learning platform tailored specifically to the learning styles of autistic children.

“We are excited by the potential to apply what has been learned with autistic children into an interactive and adaptive early stage learning tool for all children.”

Curtin’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Development, Professor Graeme Wright, said the winning technology was a fine example of the University’s high level, industry-relevant research and focus on providing a range of practical solutions to community needs.

“Professor Svetha Venkatesh, Dr Stewart Greenhill and Dr Dinh Phung’s team is well deserving of this award and the Toby Playpad is a great example of the commercial potential coming out of Curtin,” Professor Wright said.

“All of our finalists and winners at today’s Awards demonstrate the University’s strength in this area and should be commended for their achievements. In the years to come, we will see many more fine examples of products and solutions that offer real commercial potential and provide significant benefits to the community.”

The other two finalists who won prizes at the awards were:

Dr Oyekoya Ayonrinde, who won the Early Research Career prize for his Liver Fibrosis Test (LIFT), a non-invasive test that demonstrates high sensitivity and specificity for liver fibrosis in patients with chronic liver disease. LIFT utilises readily available and mostly routinely tested blood-based markers plus patient demographic data of age and sex. LIFT demonstrates increased sensitivity and specificity and is less costly than other test’s. LIFT aims to address the need for early identification of liver disease so that appropriate treatments can be applied to minimise disease effects.

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Professor Erik Helmerhorst, who won the runner-up prize for his Oral Diabetes Treatment, a new injection-free mimic of insulin for the treatment of diabetes. This treatment could be of particular utility as a front-line therapy for type 2 diabetics to delay the onset of insulin-dependency or could be taken conveniently by mouth at meal times to help control blood sugar levels of type 1 and 2 diabetics.  The treatment would be cheaper, non-invasive, and suitable for distribution in developing countries and would rapidly penetrate the multibillion dollar market for antidiabetic drugs.

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Note to Editor:

About Curtin IP Commercialisation: Curtin has an active commercialisation program and has invested in 15 companies and a number of unincorporated opportunities with the aim of translating research outcomes into new products and services for the community. The investee companies are rapidly growing and employ over 100 people in new economy jobs and generate revenues in excess of $15 million per annum. Examples of successes include, Neuromonics, Sensear, Scanalyse, HiSeis, and iCetana – all making sales in the international market.

To see all of this year’s finalist videos, click here.

Media Contact:

Andrea Barnard, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 4241 Mobile 0401 103 755; Email: