Posted in communication and networking, design and architecture, education, electronic imaging and displays

Google thinking in 3D

For those of you who missed their fairly short ad campaign, Google recently announced Project Spectrum, an outreach program and visual curriculum geared specifically towards kids with autism. Here’s a blog entry from the SketchUp blog posted last Friday explaining their ideas in better detail.

The Project Spectrum front page says they were getting lots of feedback about their SketchUp software upon it’s original release two years ago, particularly from parents of autistic kids.

“We learned that people with autism tend to be visually and spatially gifted—that, in fact, they think in pictures. When people with these gifts get their hands on powerful, easy-to-use 3D design software like SketchUp, sparks tend to fly.”

Google is not very clear on how Project Spectrum is different than just a repurposing of Sketchup, and essentially an advertisement campaign for the product. Maybe simply “we’ve added a lesson plan!”

But moving away from the cynicism, the fact that Google is acknowledging an audience with learning disabilities, or even simply different learning sytles, and reaching out to them and providing them tools that might help them is awesome. The designs kids are coming up with are really cool too, and anything that disspells stereotypes or misconceptions about autism should get attention and praise, so long as it’s done well.

The Spectrum Project is also working with The Autism Collaborative on a video game called Astropolis, so all sorts of cool visually-based projects going on.

(Just as an FYI, a lot of these different projects are tied to the group Autism Speaks, which has some good information about autism, if you’re interested.)



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.