Dr. Alyssa M. Alcorn

Research Associate, Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE)

UCL Institute of Education,
University College London,

a.alcorn (at) ucl.ac.uk
a.m.alcorn0131 (at) gmail.com

Research twitter: @a_m_alcorn0131


Research interests:
technologies for people on the autism spectrum, HCI and interaction design for children, participatory design, technology-enhanced learning and educational technologies, cognitive psychology, research ethics.

Click here for a link to my Google Scholar profile and publications/citations list.

I am also now on Research Gate! See my profile here, though my publications list on Google Scholar is more complete.

Upcoming talks

February 20th, 14:30-15:30 pm at UCL campus:  I'll be speaking about technologies for autism in the context of digital health at the UCL Institute of Digital Health seminar series

Free and open to all. Register for this talk on Eventbrite here!

The DE-ENIGMA project


I am a postdoctoral researcher on the DE-ENIGMA project, an EU-funded Horizon 2020 project. I am based at the Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE) at the UCL Institute of Education. This is a large project with multiple partner universities, focused on developing social robots as tools for children on the autism spectrum. The short videos below explain my work on DE-ENIGMA, and introduce our robot, Zeno!

Introducing Zeno and DE-ENIGMA

Making faces with Zeno the robot

PhD Thesis (Univerisity of Edinburgh)

Embedding novel and surprising elements in touch-screen games for children with autism: Creating experiences “worth communicating about"

Read the lay summary here. This is a short piece of text (1 page) that explains the work for a general, non-scientific audience.

Read the thesis abstract here. This is a short piece of text (<1 page) that gives the highlights of the entire piece of work, for an academic audience.

The games developed as a part of my PhD thesis can be seen as video demos, or played online for free. More information about the games and demos is available on my Games and Demos page.

My PhD was fully funded by a combination of sources:

For a good overview of my early PhD work suitable for a fairly general audience, see the video of my presentation at the second International Conference on Innovative Technologies for Autism (ITASD), in Paris (October 2014).
"The Sweet Spot: Balancing Novelty, Expectation Violation, and the “Need for Sameness” to Motivate Initiations in Virtual Environments"

Previous work and research groups

Within the School of Informatics, I was part of the Institute for Language, Cognition & Computation (ILCC), which focuses on the computational study of human and machine language, communication, and cognition. This institute encompasses a wide range of interests, with many interdisciplinary research projects.

Along with Professor Helen Pain, Dr. Sue Fletcher-Watson, and Dr. Andrew Manches, I was a co-organiser of the Learning and Adaptive Environments Research (LAER) Lab at the University of Edinburgh from 2011-2015. This group aims to bring together academics and students interested in technologies designed or applied with the goal of furthering education, communicative, and social development for users of all ages and abilities.

From January-December 2011, I was a Research Associate in the Interaction Lab (iLab) at Heriot Watt University, UK, working full time on the ECHOES project (see below). The iLab is a part of the Computer Science department in the School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences.

I worked on the ECHOES technology-enhanced learning project from 2010-2012 (as an MSc student, part-time researcher, and full-time researcher) and continue to be involved as the project finishes its data analysis and publication activities. ECHOES is collaboration between multiple UK universities. ECHOES is a technology-enhanced learning environment where 5-to-7-year-old children on the Autism Spectrum and their typically developing peers can explore and improve social and communicative skills through interacting and collaborating with virtual characters (agents) and digital objects.

This project combined:
  • Multi-touch screens
  • Vision
  • AI planning
  • Participatory design methods (the process of designing with, rather than for users)
  • Autism and developmental psychology research
  • The SCERTS framework for autism intervention
ECHOES was funded by ESRC/EPSRC Technology Enhanced Learning and officially concluded in May 2012. Results are in preparation. For more information and a full list of all the researchers and partner universities, visit the ECHOES project website.

As of June 2014, the ESRC has graded the ECHOES project and its outputs as "Outstanding", the highest possible grade. The TEL website has a brief description of this achievement.