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Dr. Julie De Moines


University College Dublin




Thesis Title

XR in Health and Wellbeing: Establishing a New, Inclusivley Designed Participatory Practice using Augmented Reality Helpers to Support Teens and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Address Life Challenges


The 2017 Health Evidence Awareness Report from the Irish Health Repository identified that 1-2% of the global population has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This percentage was confirmed in 2021 by the US Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Attempting to ‘fit into’ societal infrastructures and norms can present complex challenges for individuals with ASD, in a world that has not catered for their needs or tailored opportunities for their development. For instance, over 35% of young adults with ASD in the USA have not held a job, nor received formal education after leaving high school. Global comparators also show disparity and deprivation for this age group of young adults with ASD.

This thesis offers novel design insights achieved through the design and testing of a novel Augmented Reality (AR) Digital Helper, the aim of which is to bridge the needs of individuals with ASD with possible societal supports. Augmented Reality is applied in this thesis projects as a technology tool that offers a layer of information and interpretation for young people with ASD engaged in real-world activities. AR as an Assistive Technology was applied in the project through the process of co-designing an AR helper with the young people in need of its affordances. In this way, an Inclusive Co-Design methodology was applied, establishing participants with ASD as co-designers of their own AR Digital Helpers and testing their responses to the use of their own Helpers in real-world settings. The research also gathered insights from the participants’ care ecosystems of family members and care workers.

This research makes an original contribution to scholarship by introducing this novel assistive technology in the context of specific domains of knowledge, reaching across disciplines and practices to provide new insights focused on the characteristics of, and activities with which, AR Digital Helpers can assist. The thesis details the establishment of a new participatory design method and includes a literature review covering the areas of Critical Disability Studies, XR capabilities in well-being practices, and the area of social challenges for young adults with ASD, alongside the technical areas and applicable research in Virtual Reality (VR), AR and 3D non-player character guides or helpers.The PhD thesis, including the body of data, data analysis, and details of the Digital Helper prototype, are all offered together as a practice-based PhD making an original and substantial contribution to the Field of Knowledge of XR in Health and Wellbeing for individuals with ASD, and to the cognate fields of Extended Reality for ASD, and Inclusive Design. It is hoped that future scholars, design practitioners, clinicians, and people with ASD, will be able to apply this research to their studies and their lives.



Julie LeMoine is a technovator who has been working in software and innovation for over 30 years. Since 2007, she has worked with more than 20 organizations creating strategies, pilots and services using 2D and 3D gaming, Virtual Worlds (WV), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality. These many use cases are deployed in healthcare, education, energy, transportation, building and architecture, corporate and government. Her prior work was in Computer Security, Internet Security and Collaboration Software. She has a specialty in live, collaborative (multi-player) 3D gaming to promote improved distributed teaming, distance learning, quality of life and community wellbeing. Her research dissertation is focused on the application of AR and VR in Health and Wellbeing with a focus on the use of AR as an assistive support capability for everyday life activities, such as workplace/school activities, for transition-age teens and young adults with Autism. She is an IRC Scholar sponsored by Microsoft Ireland and is doing her PhD field research at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Julie is beyond passionate about the impact applied 3D gaming, AR and VR can deliver to the world to improve healthcare for all.Ms. LeMoine is the co-founder of 5 software start- ups, a co-founder of Woman In VR, a Springboard Alum., and was voted one of the top women in VR in 2018. She is the co-founder of the medVR organization and their webinar host/moderator.medVR is working to raise knowledge and innovation in applied XR in Healthcare world-wide.

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