Telepresence Education for Children with Autism – 360 Interview with Inventor Graham Smith

Autism presents in different people in vastly different ways, and yet students with autism are often treated with one-size-fits-all solutions. In many cases, especially in public school systems, “special education” is less about creating customized learning experiences for individual needs, and more about lumping all children who don’t fit the standard learning path into one “other” class. This forces higher-functioning children to learn at a slower pace than their ability allows, putting them at a disadvantage for personal development and future career and life prospects.

WebMoti, a full-control telepresence education system, is creating a way for children with autism to control their classroom experience. Many children with autism have limitations not in their learning ability, but in the amount of sensory stimulation they can bear. By taking the child physically out of the classroom and allowing them to participate via telepresence, the WebMoti system allows children to participate in a classroom environment in real time while controlling the amount of physical, visual, and auditory stimulation they receive. With this system, children can learn at the pace that suits them, in their most productive environment.

webmoti-device

WebMoti is the visual/auditory component of the system, shown above. The device is placed in the classroom at the student’s desk, and is fully controllable by the remote student. At home, or in another suitable space, the student uses the Eyemouse (shown below), a swiveling joystick-like navigation device that controls the orientation of the WebMoti. For physical stimulation, students use WebChair, an audio-responsive device that vibrates in response to sound. Altogether these devices provide the student with complete control of their telepresence in the classroom, allowing them to look around the room at things that interest them and participate in class just like their peers in the classroom.

Eyemouse 3.0

At this year’s Virtual Reality Toronto (VRTO) convention, I had the pleasure of speaking with Graham Smith, Canadian VR pioneer and Chief Science Officer of WebChair and the WebMoti project.  Fittingly, I captured our conversation in 360 – Graham holds a patent for early 360 video technology. Hear from the inventor himself about how WebMoti – and his other projects – are impacting people around the world:

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Special thanks to VRTO for setting up this interview, and to my good friend Graham for sharing with us this impactful story.

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