CIE » Newsroom » The venture helping neurodiverse people into work

NEWSROOM

The venture helping neurodiverse people into work

social media

12 February 2021

Socius XR is an immersive extended reality platform for neurodiverse people, such as those on the autism spectrum, to prepare and practice different skills and interactions for various situations, with a focus on employment. Its three founders first collaborated on the venture as students participating in Summer Lab, an intensive entrepreneurship programme run by the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 

Their innovative start-up has been embraced by the global entrepreneurial ecosystem. The team were recently awarded a grant through the Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund, that is powered by Westpac and All of Government. Socius XR CEO Anzel Singh says “What’s great about it is not only the monetary support to get products made but it’s also the guidance. The Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund means we’ll also gain connections that can put us in a better position to meet our impact goals.”

Neurodiversity is a term used to describe neurological differences in the brain. Reporting on the scale of neurodiversity can be difficult as conditions such as Autism, for a variety of reasons, can be overreported or underreported. Current research indicates that approximately 62 million people are on the autism spectrum. 

Awareness of neurodiversity is increasing and there is a groundswell of support starting to emerge to help neurodiverse people to overcome systemic or personal challenges so that they may thrive. A study by the UK’s National Autistic Society showed that, despite 77% of Autistic unemployed people wanting to work, only 16% of autistic people surveyed were in full-time employment. The differences that Autism presents includes extraordinary skills such as pattern recognition, memory and mathematics that can provide a competitive advantage. However, the communication styles and environmental sensitivity of autistic people may differ from currently accepted norms, prompting the need for a greater understanding of how both employers and those on the spectrum can accommodate these differences and allow autistic people to thrive in the workplace.

Autism also presents differences in social skills and sensitivity to environments which may challenge accepted norms and need understanding and addressing by both those on the spectrum and their employers. 

Anzel says “We all deserve to be able to learn skills that allow us to gain autonomy and live the life we want to the fullest. Many of the ways we learn these skills in society have been designed for neurotypicals, which can often result in Autistic people being misunderstood and disadvantaged. We want to change that. We want autistic people to be able to feel comfortable embracing their neurodiversity while being able to prepare for milestones in life they might feel worried or unsure about.” 

Socius XR aims to provide a bridge to understanding neurodiversity through deploying technology. The solutions that they are creating so far have included the development of a VR experience to help autistic people prepare for work in a range of environments that may be particularly challenging for those on the autism spectrum, such as a loud environment. In tandem they have developed a similar experience to help employers understand autistic peoples’ perspectives. The team at Socius XR are currently working on a smartphone app and VR app to go on Steam VR.

The team comprises of COO Sarah Mwashomah, recent Bachelor of Science (Biological Sciences and Psychology) graduate, Business Analyst Weilian Du, recent Master of Commerce and Information Systems graduate and Anzel who has completed postgraduate studies in Biology and is now enrolled in a Postgraduate Certificate in Robotics and Automation Engineering programme. Their combined knowledge and strengths have taken Socius XR from an idea pitched at Summer Lab in 2019, which they said was essential to their start, to a fully-fledged start-up. Along the way they have placed in multiple venture competitions and were invited to present their work in Barcelona in 2019 at influential tech start-up event 4 Years From Now and the Mobile World Congress.

Anzel says, “When we were in Barcelona we met a young woman during the competition we were in and on the train back she told us she wished she had something like this when she was growing up, and now. This has happened again and again throughout our journey and was one of the reasons we think our Autistic Advocacy Advisory Board members decided to join us – because they saw the huge potential it had for the community that they are part of. Something that empowers  Autistic people and neurodiversity while promoting awareness and acceptance and making the world a more inclusive place for people on the spectrum.” 

Socius XR recently established their own Autism Advocacy Advisory Board to ensure confidence that their vision is aligned with the autism community. It has significantly helped with the direction of their venture. Anzel explains that “After talking to a lot of autistic advocates we learned that a lot of the focus has been on people on the spectrum being expected to conform to neurotypical standards. We realised there should be education for neurotypicals to raise awareness and address stereotypes in order for inclusion to happen. Therefore we’re aiming to make VR experiences for both autistic people and neurotypicals.”

The Socius XR team has people on their Beta waiting list and are feeling positive about the future. Anzel says “It’s an incredible opportunity we’re thrilled about and feel lucky to have been given as it has allowed us to fast-track our ambitious goals to create an autistic centred smartphone app as well a VR store app.”  

Nicholas Bing
Nicholas Bing

social media

12 February 2021

Socius XR is an immersive extended reality platform for neurodiverse people, such as those on the autism spectrum, to prepare and practice different skills and interactions for various situations, with a focus on employment. Its three founders first collaborated on the venture as students participating in Summer Lab, an intensive entrepreneurship programme run by the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 

Their innovative start-up has been embraced by the global entrepreneurial ecosystem. The team were recently awarded a grant through the Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund, that is powered by Westpac and All of Government. Socius XR CEO Anzel Singh says “What’s great about it is not only the monetary support to get products made but it’s also the guidance. The Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund means we’ll also gain connections that can put us in a better position to meet our impact goals.”

Neurodiversity is a term used to describe neurological differences in the brain. Reporting on the scale of neurodiversity can be difficult as conditions such as Autism, for a variety of reasons, can be overreported or underreported. Current research indicates that approximately 62 million people are on the autism spectrum. 

Awareness of neurodiversity is increasing and there is a groundswell of support starting to emerge to help neurodiverse people to overcome systemic or personal challenges so that they may thrive. A study by the UK’s National Autistic Society showed that, despite 77% of Autistic unemployed people wanting to work, only 16% of autistic people surveyed were in full-time employment. The differences that Autism presents includes extraordinary skills such as pattern recognition, memory and mathematics that can provide a competitive advantage. However, the communication styles and environmental sensitivity of autistic people may differ from currently accepted norms, prompting the need for a greater understanding of how both employers and those on the spectrum can accommodate these differences and allow autistic people to thrive in the workplace.

Autism also presents differences in social skills and sensitivity to environments which may challenge accepted norms and need understanding and addressing by both those on the spectrum and their employers. 

Anzel says “We all deserve to be able to learn skills that allow us to gain autonomy and live the life we want to the fullest. Many of the ways we learn these skills in society have been designed for neurotypicals, which can often result in Autistic people being misunderstood and disadvantaged. We want to change that. We want autistic people to be able to feel comfortable embracing their neurodiversity while being able to prepare for milestones in life they might feel worried or unsure about.” 

Socius XR aims to provide a bridge to understanding neurodiversity through deploying technology. The solutions that they are creating so far have included the development of a VR experience to help autistic people prepare for work in a range of environments that may be particularly challenging for those on the autism spectrum, such as a loud environment. In tandem they have developed a similar experience to help employers understand autistic peoples’ perspectives. The team at Socius XR are currently working on a smartphone app and VR app to go on Steam VR.

The team comprises of COO Sarah Mwashomah, recent Bachelor of Science (Biological Sciences and Psychology) graduate, Business Analyst Weilian Du, recent Master of Commerce and Information Systems graduate and Anzel who has completed postgraduate studies in Biology and is now enrolled in a Postgraduate Certificate in Robotics and Automation Engineering programme. Their combined knowledge and strengths have taken Socius XR from an idea pitched at Summer Lab in 2019, which they said was essential to their start, to a fully-fledged start-up. Along the way they have placed in multiple venture competitions and were invited to present their work in Barcelona in 2019 at influential tech start-up event 4 Years From Now and the Mobile World Congress.

Anzel says, “When we were in Barcelona we met a young woman during the competition we were in and on the train back she told us she wished she had something like this when she was growing up, and now. This has happened again and again throughout our journey and was one of the reasons we think our Autistic Advocacy Advisory Board members decided to join us – because they saw the huge potential it had for the community that they are part of. Something that empowers  Autistic people and neurodiversity while promoting awareness and acceptance and making the world a more inclusive place for people on the spectrum.” 

Socius XR recently established their own Autism Advocacy Advisory Board to ensure confidence that their vision is aligned with the autism community. It has significantly helped with the direction of their venture. Anzel explains that “After talking to a lot of autistic advocates we learned that a lot of the focus has been on people on the spectrum being expected to conform to neurotypical standards. We realised there should be education for neurotypicals to raise awareness and address stereotypes in order for inclusion to happen. Therefore we’re aiming to make VR experiences for both autistic people and neurotypicals.”

The Socius XR team has people on their Beta waiting list and are feeling positive about the future. Anzel says “It’s an incredible opportunity we’re thrilled about and feel lucky to have been given as it has allowed us to fast-track our ambitious goals to create an autistic centred smartphone app as well a VR store app.”  


EMAIL
CIE@AUCKLAND.AC.NZ

PHONE
09 923 4526

NEWSLETTER SIGN UP

POSTAL ADDRESS
THE UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND BUSINESS SCHOOL
PRIVATE BAG 92019, AUCKLAND

 

 

 

WUNAPRUU21