Proof That 20% Time Can Work

The founders of Eyeread developed their reading education app during their company's sanctioned innovation interval

Written by As told to Kristene Quan

Julia Rivard Dexter and Leah Skerry are partners at Norex, a Halifax-based design firm. The duo co-founded Eyeread, an eye-tracking application for young readers, during Norex’s 20% innovation time—a model that allows employees to allocate 20% of their time to invent new products. Dexter and Skerry worked with Dalhousie University and the University of Moncton to build their first prototype, and saw the opportunity to apply the technology to reading education for kids. They plan to bring Eyeread to market in early 2016. Here, CEO Leah Skerry explains to Kristene Quan how tablets offer unique benefits for kids learning to read.

Photo: Riley Smith

If a teacher in North America notices a child is having difficulties reading, the next step is referring them to a psychologist, and that can be a one-year wait for an appointment. Getting a private educational psychologist to provide an assessment, a diagnosis and a plan for helping a child struggling to read can cost more than $2,000. So we saw the opportunity to develop a product that not only pinpointed a child’s reading level but accelerated their learning.

“We developed hardware that tracks eye movement with an infrared sensor. We then match the eye patterns with a recording of their voice. As a child reads a book, we collect all that data in real time. Once they’re finished a book, we can see words they struggled with, how long it took them to read the book, and if there were areas or pages they struggled with. We also build in prompts that let them see how a word is defined or pronounced, which makes it a fun experience for them when they’re reading. So they can learn autonomously while we gather all that data for the parent or teacher.”

This article is from the PROFIT section of the June 2015 issue of Canadian BusinessSubscribe now!


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