Producer: Floreo Inc.
Cost: Starting at $50 CDN/month
Floreo is a learning app that uses virtual reality (VR) as a method to teach social and communication skills to individuals, primarily youth, on the autism spectrum. It is designed as a supplementary tool for families, therapy practices, and educators, and uses a coach/learner model for guided interactions through a variety of scenarios presented in virtual reality. To use Floreo, the user must have access to an iPad, iPhone, and handsfree VR headset. The learner interacts with each of the modules via the iPhone placed within the VR headset while the coach monitors and guides each lesson on the iPad app.
- Expansive number of lessons revolving around teaching social skills, sensory regulation, and how to manage planned and unplanned scenarios (i.e. encountering the police, airport security, etc.);
- Visuals are well designed and engaging for the user;
- As you go through the sequential lessons, the app aims to increase distractions, as a method to help the user generalize that skill across situations;
- The coach is able to monitor and measure the progress of the user as they go through the lessons.
- Limited ability to make modifications for differing age groups (particularly adults);
- Some lessons addressing social skills and sensory regulation have less functionality are heavily reliant on coach prompting, and due to this struggle to present a realistic experience;
- Requires constant prompts from the coach in order for lessons to move forward – prevents the user from practicing modules independently;
- The app requires the iPad and iPhone to be connected to the same wifi network to pair, with a strong, stable signal to maintain the connection – fluctuations in wifi signal may cause the connection to drop and interrupt the lesson.
Ease of Use: Easy with Practice ★★★★ ☆
Adaptability: Some Personalization Possible ★★★☆☆
Accessibility: Limited Field of Users ★★☆☆☆
Cost vs. Value: Expense Greater than Return ★★☆☆☆
Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆
The setup of Floreo requires a support worker or coach to be present throughout each lesson to provide verbal prompts and instructions to the user. In most lessons, the coach guides the scenario, observes the user’s response, and decides if it was a “good” or “bad” response. Depending on the response input by the coach, the characters in the app either repeat the question or move on. Each prompt is presented in simple language and is intended to be read directly from the coach device as the lesson progresses. Though this helps ensure consistency as a learner works with multiple coaches on each lesson and does allow for monitoring progress, the experience is contingent on the coach’s participation with each verbal prompt occurring as an external voice that detracts from the immersive VR experience. Increasing the personalization settings to allow for built-in voiceovers or self-directed learning would provide a more engaging experience for the user and support a wider demographic range.
Floreo provides a unique interactive alternative to more traditional video modeling or step-by-step breakdowns. For example, some of the lessons around eye gaze have a reward factor – if the user looks at the correct object there is positive reinforcement provided, such as an explosion of color or sound, keeping the user engaged and motivated; however, some of the other activities, such as sensory regulation, lack a similar reward factor or goal that guides the experience which can be under stimulating and fails to meet the intended function.
The teaching stories (i.e. how to initiate or join the conversation or encountering a police officer) have sequential lessons with varying levels of difficulty and complexity: the life skills lessons include realistic characters and procedures within commonly encountered scenarios; however, the social skills lessons featuring peer to peer interactions are brief and limited. Several of the peer interaction lessons include young children as models without the ability to make character modifications. This lack of personalization for the lessons or characters can make it hard for adults to relate with the app and limits the range of possible uses.
Overall, Floreo relies heavily on the coach in order for it to be a meaningful learning experience. This can be a useful tool for users aiming to increase their independence with life skills, particularly for those with newly emerging skills in this area; but the social skills or sensory regulation portions of this app lack an ability to personalize lessons leading to an underwhelming experience. For the limited demographic (youth with ASD) that this app has been designed for, these limitations have a marginal impact; however, there is a significant area for further development and growth which could increase the possible applications for this technology and the demographic served. This is an app that shows potential and is worth following for future developer updates.