Using a wizard theme, the first part of the app allows the user to operate VR hand controls to wave a wand that writes letters in the air, which helps to develop gross motor skills. The next part uses speech recognition technology as the user works to sound out the words they’ve just written. A correct pronunciation results in the casting of a spell. The game also includes a data-analysis tool that allows a teacher or facilitator to monitor the progress of the user.
“A lot of times children with dyslexia don’t have a lot of confidence to read out loud in public because they’re worried, ashamed or afraid,” says McCready. “When you’re in virtual reality, you’re transported to another world – in this case, with our game, to a magical castle. That allows their confidence to possibly be a little bit higher because they feel like they’re just there by themselves, reading out the word out loud.”
Out of 80 teams, McCready’s team placed in the top 10 overall, and in the top five among VR-based projects. After the event, the team was approached by multiple companies encouraging them to further develop the app, meaning this project could reach full development in the future.
“It’s a cliché, but it really was a life-changing experience,” says McCready. “For me, it validated that what we’re doing here at Lethbridge College is important. It also validated that I’m able to contribute to this type of work. But most importantly, it demonstrated to me that there are a lot of people around the world who have a passion and a drive for this, and it made me want to be able to help my students find that passion and drive.”
McCready was named the college’s first President’s Applied Research Chair in Virtual and Augmented Reality in August to help further the college’s work in the VR/AR field. He was instrumental in developing the college’s Virtual and Augmented Reality certificate program – one of the first of its kind in Canada – that launched in September and he is an instructor in the program as well as a graduate of the college. He also serves as the President of the Alberta Chapter of the Virtual and Augmented Reality Association.