Cambridge Wireless (CW) recently organised a CW Unplugged event exploring how technology can support and aid autistic children and adults. Fresh Perspectiv was very pleased to be involved in the event, facilitating the ideation sessions that were one component of the evening.
The event brought together academics, charities, parents of children with autism and product development experts. The reality of living with autism and current research focused on the area were discussed and then separate ideation sessions considered two different challenges facing the study and commercialisation of “Autism Tech”.
One technology discussed was virtual reality (VR) that has the potential to enable the user to experience myriad things in a safe and supportive environment. VR itself is rapidly becoming mainstream, with many applications being developed from entertainment and education through to architectural planning, and exploration of consumer behaviour.
VR offers great potential to support the large number of people with autism and their friends and family. The potential support could take many forms, depending on an individual’s need but for example could provide:
A core challenge, is to move VR for Autism to a stage where is it commercialisable and scalable, putting it in a position to help the maximum number of people possible. This is not a straightforward process, and an ecosystem of players is required from the hardware developers through to the families themselves and the charities and campaign groups.
Here are 5 key steps that will help the process move in the right direction.
1. Defining the Value Proposition
It is vital that ‘VR supporting autism’ develops into a better defined and articulated value proposition. As indicated above, there are several different scenarios of use for which VR can help those with autism. Each scenario will be compelling to different customers or user groups and greater understanding of this will help to determine how and where there is greatest opportunity or opportunities for VR
2. Defining the customer
Based on the value proposition, content and so on, it is important to identify the customer, in terms of who pays for the system. For example, a number of local authorities have been purchasing VR equipment for schools. Does this represent the best route to market?
3. Obtaining data
It is important for the future development of this area that an ecosystem is established with different stakeholders willing to provide a particular component into the overall VR product development process. This includes gathering the necessary insights to inform the value proposition and also to ensure evidence-based technology claims. Data to demonstrate efficacy (and thus enhance confidence in the approach) is vital especially if there becomes a need to get large hardware or software organisations on board. It is important to consider:
4. Developing content
Autism-specific content is yet to be developed, at least not to any great extent. Typically, researchers using VR in autism are using off-the-shelf content that has been developed for mainstream schools or other mainstream applications. Bespoke content is however clearly a vital component to enable specific evidence to be obtained, which will also help to further define the value proposition. As a number of organisations are developing software tools making the creation of content easier to do, it is anticipated that autism-specific content will become more widespread.
5. Defining the opportunity owner
As outlined above, an ecosystem of organisations and individuals with an interest in advancing the use of VR in autism is required. To move the potential of VR to the next level, this will likely require one organisation to combine the components into a coherent product, combining the hardware, content, an understanding of autism, and a defined value proposition along with distribution, marketing etc.
This article is not intended to be exhaustive and cannot possibly include all the considerations necessary to get what is both an important and complicated product to market. However, it is hoped that the areas outlined above will stimulate further discussion, continue to build momentum and encourage others to take on the challenge of commercialising technology for autism.
©Fresh Perspectiv 2018