LEVEL & Virtual Reality

Level has just completed its first VR project. Working with Artist Will Hurt (see Abstract Playground) we have developed an app for playback using smart phones and virtual reality headsets. This has been created as a resource for the 5 SENSE project but will see a wider use across the whole Level Programme. Authored using Unity our 3D world uses bright primary colours, simple shapes, sound and small video screens to provide a interactive environment to encourage people to track objects using colour or sound. Using Lonely Screen (to mirror the display) we are able to see what the participant is seeing. This is essential as it helps us to understand what decisions participants are making and gives us clues as to why. The images above and below show people using the VR headset with the image they are seeing projected onto walls. This not only provides the important feedback, but also enables others to feel involved in the experience – this can be a downside of working with VR in a group context.

The VR experience is controlled by a bluetooth controller. This can be triggered by users themselves to make it fully interactive – or by others to make it a more passive but controlled experience. The triggers do a variety of things from rotating the world, panning and tracking the virtual camera to turning the video screens on or off. As all things LEVEL, this is very much a research project. There is a lot of current research looking at the effect of VR applications with young people with learning disabilities and we hope to contribute a little towards this. Our focus is upon people with PMLD (Profound Multiple Learning Disabilities) as we recognise that the impact of visual stimulation is often very hard to assess within this group of people. However it does have wider implications for our work at Level and will potentially provide another creative opportunity for people.

For those interested please click on the link below to view an early piece of research looking at VR with Children with LD by: McComas published by GIUSEPPE RIVA, BRENDA K. WIEDERHOLD, ENRICO MOLINARI (Eds.)
Virtual Environments in Clinical Psychology and Neuroscience, 1998 © Ios Press: Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The abstract is shown (left)



Technological advances, including the use of virtual reality, have contributed enormously to improving the treatment, training, and quality of life of children with disabilities. This paper describes the advantages of VR for children with disabilities, how VR can minimize the effects of a disability, the role of VR in training and skills enhancement, and how social participation and the child’s quality of life may be improved through the use of VR. Examples from published literature and Internet sites are given of current and completed projects which focus on improving the lives of children with disabilities. The research describing the efficacy of knowledge and skills transfer from a virtual environment to the real world are examined in relation to children with disabilities. Finally, the current limitations and future directions of VR for children with disabilities are considered.