Day 5 of #100daysofwalking and stammer podcasts

Day 5 of #100daysofwalking with stammer podcasts

I went on a stunning walk in #longford on the new walkway through the recently decommissioned peat bogs near #lanesboro.

Stutter with Confidence #55 (hosted by Mike Wilson with Gareth Walkom)

I chose this episode because it combines Gareth talking about his company #withVR and his role as a Board member for #Stamily.

In this episode, Gareth describes his tech company withVR which is a virtual reality program designed to help people with speech disorders practice real-life speaking situations in virtual reality. Traditionally, these situations might be practiced in role-play or using a mirror but the practice environment misses out many important pieces from the real-life situation – facial expression and body language of the listener, background noise, people in a queue, an audience watching you, loud sounds or music to speak over.

SLTs might work with clients to identify real-life speaking situations which are challenging, such as preparing for a job interview or presentation. Until now, there has been no middle step between practicing in an unrealistic situation before diving straight in to the real scenario. Gareth has designed withVR to allow a customisable VR experience with the ability to change the expressions and body language of others in the scenario, customised volume and background noise controls. With the use of a 360 degree camera, unique situations for clients can be recorded and imported into VR. The possibilities of this software are endless and will be a real asset to people who stammer, SLTs and for many others.

The software is designed to be used with an Oculus Quest 2 VR headset with a therapist using a PC to control the settings. At any time, the headset can be removed or settings can altered to make sure the experience feels safe and comfortable at all times. The software will also be available for mobile VR in the future which will allow home use without requiring a VR headset.

I have a little insider knowledge on withVR because I already have an Oculus Quest 2 headset. I came across withVR on Twitter and signed up to the newsletter. Gareth got in touch as he was interested to hear about an SLT with a special interest in stammering who already owned the headset that was compatible with his software. We organised a Zoom chat and I am really honoured to have had a sneak peek already. The attention to detail and thoughtful consideration of all aspects of the design is second to none.

Gareth recently pitched at a Tech competition by Google for Startups. Gareth/withVR was one of six entrepreneurs to pitch their tech company to win seed funding. The Stamily WhatsApp group exploded with messages of support and many members stayed up until midnight/1am or the early hours to watch the pitch live on Eventbrite. When the winners were announced, we all grew excited as 3rd place and 2nd place were announced​ then…the winner….withVR! The group erupted with cheers and congratulations. As other members from around the world woke up and saw the news, messages continued to flow in through the night! Stamily is a really friendly and encouraging group with lots of opportunities to meet other people who stammer from all around the world.