Inspiration

Our team was inspired to create an accessibility application in virtual reality for children with developmental disorders gamifying 5 educational modules. Last year, a few of our group members did research on the company Ideal Way, a non profit organization dedicated to inspiring and motivating people with disabilities, and others, to reach their potential. One of their programs, I Can You Can developed by Fanshawe College and Western University fosters inclusive attitudes and leadership of people with disabilities by teaching social issues and building skills using 7 modules. We wanted to create 5 of our own learning modules that would focus on children with developmental disorders.

Since one of our team members has an immediate relative with developmental disorders, we wanted to narrow our focus and create modules and accessibility features that would directly impact this focus group.

What it does

AccessiLearn VR utilizes a variety of accessibility features embedded into fun, teaching modules for children with developmental disorders. Using virtual reality, we were able to provide sensory stimuli and a more immersive environment than a traditional computer or mobile based game. All of our learning modules were built with the goal of providing an application that is inclusive and caters to children who typically cannot get a good learning experience from traditional games.

Accessibility Features:

TEXT TO SPEECH - Our largest accessibility feature that we focused on in this project was the text-to-speech section. This application can read written passages out loud at an appropriate speed, providing aid to children who have trouble reading text or have auditory processing disorders. Depending on the module, text-to-speech will begin either automatically when approaching different areas, or a button can be pressed to enable speech.

TOUR GUIDE - We also realized that, typically, children with developmental disorders are uncomfortable with new environments. To aid with this, we created Melody, AccessiLearn’s tour guide. She gives users a virtual tour of map and game options before starting playing. The tours will ensure that children can familiarize themselves with unknown environments before diving into the learning modules.

HELP & DIRECTIONS - The help centre can assist children with common questions they may have about the game. This includes controls, instructions, and directions which can guide the user to the learning module they want to explore. By using the help centre in-game, users can also trigger the appearance of a familiar face, Melody, who can help with directions around town.

Educational Modules:

FACIAL FUN - Children with developmental disorders, such as autism, often find it hard to recognize emotions, facial expressions, and other emotional cues like tone of voice and body language. Our first learning module teaches children to read emotions through the use of animated characters. Each character will use facial expressions and speak with a specific tone to indicate an emotion. Children will then be able to learn which emotion this character is portraying, improving their emotional intelligence.

PETTING ZOO - We took into consideration that interaction with animals is proven to have countless benefits for children with developmental disorders. However, these children tend to get excited when they see animals, which can cause unintentional aggression. We decided to create a petting zoo that gives children the opportunity to interact with virtual animals, while also teaching them how to approach and be careful with the specific animal in real life.

DISCO DANCE - Designed for children to get sensory stimuli and to improve self esteem. Using animations, we created a short dance routine for children to follow to encourage physical exercise. Getting exercise releases chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins into the brain which encourages feelings of happiness and can reduce stress and anxiety.

RECYCLING RELAY - Teaches children to sort through garbage, recycling and compost. This teaches children with developmental disabilities fundamentals of social responsibility and the environment. Environmental education is often neglected in children but can play an essential role in development within society. Furthermore, the concept of recycling can teach users how to sort through items which can improve logical skills.

STORYTIME - Teaches children to follow a story using both visual and auditory components. We used exaggerated speech to accurately express the emotions of each character and allow players to follow along. The story was written to encourage development of emotional intelligence and creativity.

How we built it

Our project was built using Unity and C# using VR Interaction framework with a total of 23 original scripts. The characters we used were modelled using Adobe fuse and animated with Mixamo, and the remaining assets were from the Unity Asset Store. We purposely chose bright cute environmental and character assets (animals, fairy etc) to appeal to children. Our UI and original storybook artwork done using Adobe Illustrator and Canva

Challenges we ran into

Making a virtual reality application in 48 hours was definitely a challenge. We did the majority of our testing with the Oculus Quest 2 and it took a while to build for each test. Implementing the accessibility features had a few challenges. This included triggers, buttons, voice commands and making sure that everything was accessibility friendly. In addition, the VR framework has some bugs which caused problems and required modifications of scripts.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are proud of creating an application that can truly impact children with developmental disorders. We stand strongly with our solution and believe it can solve our problem statement very effectively. Additionally, our application is very technically complex, as we were able to implement 5 different learning modules as opposed to 1. Making our application more diverse will make it appealing for a larger audience and help our users improve multiple skills.

What we learned

Our team learned more about creating our own obj 3D models to use in our application. Typically, we get all of our assets from the Unity Asset Store, so using Adobe Fuse and Mixamo were new programs to us. Furthermore, this is our second time creating a virtual reality application so we believe that we solidified our ability to use VR framework.

NOTE

Voiceovers for the video and the gameplay are both done by the same voice. We realized it was a little difficult to differentiate in the video. Please view our photos to see more accessibility features.

Full Unedited Gameplay

We didn't get to show all accessibility features in the video, however, we have provided a full unedited play-through video since not everyone has a VR headset to download. Link in the “Try it out” section

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