VR & Mentally Disabled People: What We Learned

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VR & Mentally Disabled People: What We Learned
November 20, 2016

Working in the field of virtual reality as an interaction designer offers me the possibility to learn more about people’s reactions towards new technology. Every week I have the pleasure of showing virtual reality experiences to the young and the old people; men and women; etc. Usually, after interacting with VR simulations, people react with surprise, excitement and joy; some of them get sick, some of them scared (just two actually); some of them think VR is the future  while others are more prudent. Taking part of VR showing events makes me realize that users are mostly keen to use VR applications, they want to learn further.

St Viator Project

During this week, I had the chance of sharing my experience as VR interaction designer with a special group of people, I am talking about mentally disabled people, all of them students at San Viator college, in Euskadi, in the north of Spain. In this short post, I will share some insights, risen during this weekly experience.

 

St Viator’s weekly project was the result of the collaboration between the company where I am currently working LUDUS, and Lantegui Batuak, a basque organization aiming to help disabled people in their education and job seeking process. As a result, we designed, along with the college staff, a VR week, in which some disabled students had the chance to practice with LUDUS VR forklift simulator.

 

What does the project consist of?

During the whole week, several students have tried the simulator and practiced their skills as forklift operators. San Viator college staff included the VR forklift practices into a month course specialization which ends up with the scholars getting the forklift operator license. Hence, apart from the regular education plan, the selected students enjoyed 5 hours of VR training, prior to taking over a real forklift and after traditional theoretical lectures.

 

Week outcomes, VR and learning process

One of the most important insights, one of the most important facts I have noticed during the project, was the effect that VR has in the student’s learning process.

 

Motivation and learning

The student motivation increases significantly, students pay more attention, and the communication between teacher and student is better in the end. The students kept asking questions and were keen to learn more, apart from the regular theory and slideset. The teacher noticed that his pupils were more involvement on the learning process and their participation in the class growed steadily during the week. I realized that some of the students look up information about forklift safety in the internet and some of them started playing forklift safety games in their mobile.

 

Stimulation, focusing and creativity

The multisensory stimulation helps the student to keep focused on the practice. All the students were amazed by the 3D environment recreated by the software. Visual, haptic and auditory stimulation helped them to pay extra attention to safety issues while driving. Moreover, the students creativity was also affected by the VR training, as they kept proposing improvements for the forklift training tool, some of which were very interesting and will be considered during the next product iteration at LUDUS.  

 

Learning and knowledge adquisicion

The student’s knowledge acquisition benefit from the VR experience. The group proved to manage more aspects and acquired wider amount of concepts. Even though the course is not finished and we cannot make conclusions yet, the teacher believes this group of students will do much better than previous mentally disabled groups. At LUDUS we will be waiting for the final reports in order to consider the possibility of conducting further research on the field.

Well, the former are just few insights, in a very simple way, about the potential effect that VR could have over learning; showing the possibilities of the implementation of VR in  technical education, especially when it comes to students with learning issues and difficulties. Is seems clear that technology, and VR, could have an important effect on education.

 

As technologist and psychologist, I find this field of study specially interesting as well as challenging. I can discern a huge range of possible benefits for the society, and I believe that further research will allow us to improve the education system using VR tools for skill training.

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