Academics in Wales are developing a new app which uses virtual reality (VR) technology similar to that used in ‘Pokemon Go’ to help teach road safety to primary school children.
The app is being developed by the University of South Wales (USW) with £67.5k of funding from the Road Safety Trust.
The grant is being used to develop ‘proof of concept’ of the game-based road safety education app, which will then be tested in Welsh primary schools.
The project is being led by psychologist Dr Catherine Purcell and games design expert Dr Mike Reddy, both from USW.
The aim is to develop an app that will provide a cost-effective way for children to learn road-crossing skills in a ‘virtual’ environment, where there is no danger of injury.
Dr Catherine Purcell said: “Road traffic accidents represent the second largest cause of death and disability worldwide for children aged between five and 14 [years], so the need to teach children how to safely cross the road is vital.
“Through previous research I have demonstrated that ‘egocentric’ software, such as first-person games that directly simulate immersion in an artificial world, have a greater likelihood of teaching children vital information that will help to ensure that they are safe on roads.”
Dr Mike Reddy said: “Virtual reality has been around for a few decades, but has only recently become good enough, and accessible at a reasonable price, for it to enter the mainstream.
“Like any new medium, there are no simple answers as to how to use it effectively. This project will be genuinely breaking new ground in taking the technology beyond 3D video and games for entertainment, by looking at how and whether VR can be used to educate children about a very real problem.”
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