United States, Harvard University, Cal Poly, TU Chemnitz
Zelixa is a Hololens app and online learning platform built to help dyslexic kids learn to read. Aiming to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing dyslexia therapy today, Zelixa is the first app to uniquely combine mixed reality, gamification, and cutting edge scientific research into a tool that is immediately transferable, improvement-focused, and even fun. Team Zelixa is lucky to be working with Dyslexia International and researchers at Harvard University to make this technology accessible to as many kids as early as possible.
This time a month ago, the three of us were strangers. Hand-picked from a competitive pool of some of the best student hackers in the world, we were brought together at VHacks-- a hackathon in the heart of the Vatican City-- by a shared love of technology and an uncompromising commitment to social good. As we listened to cardinals, refugees, and technologists speak, surrounded by the legacy of a church that spread new ideas to an illiterate society through the visual technology of art, it dawned upon us that technology’s seminal role in democratizing access to education had failed a key group of people: people who read differently from us. In an age when texting, captions, and comments form the majority of young people’s social capital and interaction, dyslexic kids are left behind. As we saw it, technology had exacerbated an issue and was doing nothing to rectify it, with devastating consequences. Even computerized dyslexia therapies are antiquated, not to mention boring and non-transferrable for easily discouraged children. While researchers believe AR may be the best hope for dyslexic education, only one study has even attempted to use AR concepts (via Kinect) in a dyslexic setting, and no products have approached commercialization. Over the course of 36 hours, we pored over dozens of studies, picked our mentors’ brains, and ran countless tests to develop Zelixa, a fun, engaging Hololens app that uses cutting edge medical and AR advancements to help dyslexic kids learn to read. Since VHacks, although we haven’t been able to test improvements to our code due to lack of access to a Hololens, we’ve been in communication with key patrons of Dyslexia International, one of the largest dyslexia-focused nonprofits in the world, and top dyslexia researchers to fine tune our scientific concepts and business plan. We’ve got big dreams for Zelixa, but we need Microsoft Imagine to help us access the technology-side tools and mentorship to get there. Okay, we know what you’re thinking-- they’ve got a cryptic name that sounds half like a pharmaceutical product, half like a video game’s alternate universe (and frankly, that’s a pretty apt description of what we hope to accomplish), but who are these kids, really? Pranav Gulati: Pranav is a masters student in Automotive software Engineering at TU Chemnitz, Germany. He’s quick to learn, easy to reason, a maker at heart, and uncluttered in the mind. Selynna Sun: Sely is a 2nd year computer science major at Cal Poly SLO, and she specializes in full stack web development with technologies like React.js and Node.js. Outside of school, Selynna is very involved with the hackathon scene. She’s a veteran hackathon organizer and has founded 2 hackathons, and works as a hackathon “coach”/developer evangelist for Major League Hacking, a community of 65k+ student hackers around the world. One quirky fact about her is that she became interested in computer science by going to a hackathon solely on the promise of free food! Carra Wu: Carra is a freshman at Harvard studying the intersection between technology and labor economics. She specializes in full stack development, product management, and pitching. At Harvard, she conducts research for the Shorenstein Center for Media and Policy and is an analyst with the Harvard College Consulting Group. During her last case, she delivered her Fortune 10 client a winning strategy for entering the smart cities sphere, earning the firm a contract renewal. She’s currently on a gap semester working full-time at Apptimize, a YC and GV backed startup, where she’s been doing product launch with the CEO. In her free time, Carra volunteers overnight shifts at a homeless shelter and dances ballet at Alonzo King Lines. According to her roommates, her worst habit is a toss up between binge-reading books and painting under the living room skylights, because dammit, the acrylic gets everywhere. According to her, their worst habit is making her laugh when they’re cutting her hair.