Skip to content

A Mixed Reality Software System to Improve Communication Outcomes for Autistic Students

Project Category: Software

The Project

Autistic individuals who struggle to communicate through speech and motor movements often find themselves isolated. Our team has taken on the task of finding a way to provide these individuals an outlet for expression. The solution? Improving the motor function of the individual using the Microsoft Hololens 2.

The Microsoft Hololens 2 is a mixed reality device that allows the user to interact with holographic projections integrated with their real world surroundings. In our case, the goal was to gradually improve the motor function of the autistic individual by increasing their ability to operate with the holograms. The motor function difficulty is designed to progressively increase in difficulty to challenge the user to improve their motor skills. For example, allowing the buttons to become increasingly small throughout the lesson plan and incorporating various interactables.

Through these means, we believe we have created a product that could greatly improve the way of life for autistic individuals.

In Action

Our Team

Andrey Balasanyan (Project Lead/Editor/Software Tech)

Andrey cites his yearning to take charge as motivation to join numerous clubs across his degree (UofC Robotics Association, ToastMasters International, and UofC Leadership Foundations). He especially enjoys the reward of seeing a project through to its completion.

Kyle Deboer (Software Lead)

Kyle is a software engineering student with an affinity for finding creative solutions to challenging problems. His skills were largely honed through a recent financial technology internship.

Travis Dow (Software Lead)

A lifelong curiosity of how things work persuaded Travis into a software engineering degree following his stint in Natural Sciences. Now, he has an affinity for everything software engineering has to offer.

Libby Bell (Research Lead/Content Creator/Editor)

A strong interest in helping those with disabilities has stayed with Libby throughout her electrical engineering journey. Now, this project joins her long list in organizations and clubs dedicated to helping those who face adversity (Best Buddies, Tikkun Olam Makers, WISE, Engineers Without Borders).

Hunter Mooney (Editor/Tech Officer)

Coming from a long tenure in sports, Hunter is looking to apply the leadership and hard work ethic he learned in athletics into a workplace environment, preferably some sort of renewable energy.

Jash Dubal (Content Creator/Tech Officer)

An attachment with computers has led Jash through the electrical engineering path. He has stayed in touch with software projects through his work on projects like this one and his commitment to the Schulich Ignite program as a coding mentor.

Shabbir Hussain (Research Lead/Animations Lead)

Shabbir came to the University of Calgary from abroad and cites its high educational standards as his motivation. Through numerous design projects he has accessed skills that he is excited to put towards highly technical projects in the future.

Details about our design

  • The Hololens 2 is a brand new technology, so forays into this field are limited at the moment
  • Autistic individuals with low motor and verbal communication skills are confined to the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), where they must point at very specific images. If our program succeeds at improving motor function, the person would be able to use a keyboard rather than highly specific images.
  • Using the Hololens rather than a keyboard allows buttons to be much larger and therefore much easier for an individual with low motor function
  • Lesson plans can be endlessly customizable for a specific student
  • Data can be tracked by whoever looks over the individual (eg. hand-tracking, time per question, right/wrong answers)
  • Since our project is heavily focused on psychological components, we frequently contacted our sponsor and advisors for critical analysis of our solutions
  • At each step of the design we ran tests through the Unity editor (animation platform) to ensure that everything ran appropriately

In a controlled environment where a parent/guardian/psychologist is present, the application is absolutely feasible to use in a test state

Partners and Mentors

A special thanks is in order for our industry sponsor, Dr. Krishnamurthy and our project advisor, Dr. McCrimmon. Without the expertise and knowledge of these two, the project would not have made the progress it did.



  1. Microsoft, 2022. Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman demonstrates the capabilities of the HoloLens. [image] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 April 2022].