Matthew Miller
Jan 15, 2015

Samsung project develops app to help autistic kids connect

KOREA - A smartphone helps autistic children connect emotionally with family members thanks to an app developed and tested by Samsung and Cheil in partnership with university researchers.

Client: Samsung

Agency: Cheil Worldwide

Market: Global

Campaign scope: The brand and agency worked with academic researchers to develop and research the effectiveness of 'Look at me', an app that purports to help children with autism improve their ability to make eye contact and identify the emotions of people in their lives. The companies produced a couple of online films (above and here) to share the story.

Details: After eight weeks using the app, 60 per cent of the tested children showed improvement in making eye contact and identifying emotional expressions, according to the researchers. Some parents said that their kids expressed their emotions better, that the intensitiy of emotional expressions such as surprise, happiness and disgust, improved. Others reported an enhanced ability to decode the emotions of others.

Press release quote: Wain Choi, vice-president and global executive director, Cheil Worldwide: "It’s been a while since we’ve tried to deliver a message beyond product features. And this one, in particular, was more about human truth and less about products. The 'Look at Me' application is truly a technology that touches our lives in a meaningful way. Imagine an innovation that brings loved ones together."

Campaign Asia-Pacific's comments: We were initially skeptical of the claim that 60 per cent of children showed improvement, because that was based partly on surveying the children's parents. Such impressions are notoriously subjective, as it's easy for parents to fall into wishful thinking (and no one could blame them).

However, a Cheil spokesperson confirmed that the legitimate academic researchers (see below) who ran the project used eye-tracking studies to assess the way the children looked at faces before and after the eight weeks. Most importantly, the study included a 'control group' of children who did not use the app, as a means of comparison. The results have not been published formally in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but the researchers plan to do so, according to the spokesperson. 

Setting aside the scientific merit, the intent of the project is inarguably positive. Cheil says it was aiming to introduce "a human-centric brand ideal, beyond technology". This is a good start, and it makes a fine counterpoint to the brand's usual advertising. We look forward to more.

Finally, on a film-craft level, we love how often the filmmakers 'pulled' focus throughout the course of the film. Making a blurry face gradually become sharp is a fitting visual representation of what the app is trying to achieve on an emotional level.


ECD: Wain Choi
CD: Kevin Pereira
ACD: Jax Jung
Art direction: Joohee Lee, Seeun Kim
Copywriter: Songha Lee, Adrian Sim
Account manager: Andy Sungkyoon Wang, Diane DY Lee
Project manager: Chris Seongwook Kim

Director: Sean Yoo
Assistant director: Wooyoung Nam
Executive producer: Kyungsic Park
Producer: Hyukjun Lee
Director of photography: Hanvit Kang
1st DOP: Chihyoung Lim, Jaesung Kim
Gaffer: Woohyuk Choi
1st gaffer: Jinkwon Kim
Production company: Breakfast Film
Edit/2d company: Wideeast
Edit: Kwangho Choi
2d: Eunmi Lee, Juneseok Son, Giwoong Choi
Music company: Limlight
Music: Hojun Ryu, Hyeong-geun Lee
NTC: Seoulvision, Ockjin Jeon, Junhyong Jo, Wonwoo Choi, Soyeon Kim

App production company: Design Fever
Project manager: Yeonjoo Jeong
Planner: Gaeon Kim
UI design: Jaejin Jeong, Jooheon Oh, Jooheon Oh
Character design: Jiyeon Kim
Development: Myoungah Chang, Heecheol Jeong, Juhyoen, Kim, ByoungJun, Kwak

Photography: Daeho Seo
Model agency: Ready Agency (Korea) / Muse (Hong Kong)
Stylist: Songkyung Han (Korea) / Emma (Hong Kong)
Producer: Myungmoon Ko (Hong Kong)

Clinical test:
Yonsei University, Dept. of Psychology: Prof. KyongMee Chung, Prof. Sangchul Chung, Prof. Jaewon Yang

Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Dept. of Pediatric Psychology: Heejung Yoo M.D.


Campaign Asia

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