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Rubu Academy

Updated: Feb 5

Training the next generation of adventurers

Active play vs passive consumption

For several years now we’ve been highly interested in how we can use new and accessible technologies to tap into the ways kids naturally learn through play.

Using technologies like computer vision and mixed reality, we experimented with integrating familiar, hands-on activities - like card play, puppets and colouring - and digital game play. We found it an exciting approach that resonated with young kids and encouraged active learning rather than passive consumption of media.

Rubu Adventures

With insights we gained and technologies we validated, we began developing a game for young kids called Rubu Adventures. It featured a young robot named Rubu that kids would help guide on adventures across galaxies, solving challenging puzzles while helping creatures in need.

The game play encouraged open exploration, while also providing structure that helped kids progress through their missions. And by integrating mixed reality technology, kids moved between on and off screen activities including:

  • Colouring cards to customize Rubu

  • Paper maps to help kids navigate levels

  • DIY puppets to physically control Rubu

  • An ‘Adventure Journal’ to document their findings

Here's a short interactions demo:

ASD Potential

While testing our prototype, we discovered it resonated with families of kids who had ASD; this was surprising because we hadn’t designed the experience with this audience in mind.

This got us curious. We explored further, meeting with clinicians and families of kids with ASD, and saw how large a problem there was in providing effective cognitive development support. We also realized that the approaches we were exploring could be really impacting.

Our narrative driven game design seemed to be especially promising in its ability to scaffold a variety of foundational cognitive skills including joint engagement, attention, executive function, theory of mind and more. This combined with the integration of tactile interactions gave us unique potential to engage children with ASD while generating valuable data and insights clinicians could use to extend their impact.

Realigning Rubu

In order to create a product that has real impact, we are currently working with our partner Surrey Place to conduct interviews with families and clinicians, and review existing literature to determine specific product requirements that we can use to realign our previous designs.

Our aims are to:

  • Determine specific foundational skills to target and the order in which to target them

  • Ensure game play and activities designed are easily facilitated by parents and other caregivers in the home setting

  • Generate, capture and deliver measurable outcomes that are meaningful to clinicians and researchers

More than an app

We do not see just a one-off app resulting from the work we are doing.

We see an evolving, consolidated platform that can be a much needed resource that families and clinicians can turn to for individualized support. Insights gained through its use can lead to the design of new activities that target different cognitive skills and new tools that generate insights and extend the impact of therapy.

That’s why we’re calling this new platform Rubu Academy - a place where kids with ASD can develop, on an ongoing basis, foundational skills through play, and where caregivers can get the support they need and insights to help them extend their impact.

We’re excited to share more as we make strides forward.


Ram Puvanesasingham


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