Computer games and virtual reality technology are helping children to learn and people on the autistic spectrum to gain confidence thanks to new developments by University of Hull graduates and students.
A virtual reality gardening game to help children and young people on the autistic spectrum is set to be released by VISR VR, a company made up of University of Hull graduates and based at the University’s Enterprise Centre.
Botanika allows young people to immerse themselves in their own virtual reality garden where they can plant, create and design, as well as connect with other people in the virtual world. London-based autism awareness charity CASPA has been working with the team to help develop the game, which was commissioned by Microsoft and will be available on Xbox, PlayStation and PCs.
VISR boasts some of the world’s biggest companies as clients – including Google. It has provided virtual reality headsets for blockbusters including Star Wars: The Force Awakens and also creates low-cost cardboard headsets. The company was co-founded by Louis Deane, University of Hull Computer Science graduate, and Lindsay West, joint managing director of Garthwest Ltd, the largest independent manufacturer of corrugated cardboard products in the UK. The game was tested with a group of around 30 young people selected by CASPA at an event in London earlier this year.
Louis says: “People just loved the game. The real world applications of intelligent gaming are vast and when you complement these with the medium of virtual reality, there really are no limits. The team at VISR has created something fantastic. The immersive experience of planting your own garden really helped with how in control these children and young people felt and in turn enabled them to feel at ease.”
Meanwhile, a team of the University’s Chemistry students are using building game Minecraft to teach young scientists of the future. The undergraduates created a Minecraft world, called MolCraft, which aims to help youngsters learn about chemistry, including the structure of proteins and chemicals. The world allows youngsters to roam around looking at molecular structures built by the students. The project was sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry and developed with Hull’s resident Minecraft education expert Joel Mills and Mark Lorch, Professor of Science Communication and Public Engagement at the University of Hull.
Mark says: “Minecraft is a fabulous tool for exploring structures of buildings, landscapes and even anatomy. So why not molecules? We showed it to a class of children the other day and there were lots of wows and gasps. This just really grabs their attention.”