University of Guelph creates VR game to teach kids about pedestrian safety

University of Guelph VR kids

Researchers at Ontario’s University of Guelph have developed a 3D virtual reality game aimed at teaching children about how to safely cross a street.

“Parents tend to overestimate their child’s ability to navigate traffic safely,” said lead researcher Barbara Morrongiello, director of the Child Development Research Unit at U of G, in a press statement. “But the reality is that children aren’t always familiar with the best strategies for how to cross safely, and it’s a problem because parents are assuming kids are more competent than they are.”

According to Morrongiello, this means that parents might allow children to walk to school on their own before they’re ready to do so safely.

That’s where U of G’s currently untitled VR game comes in.

Citing a recent Journal of Pediatric Psychology study, the U of G researchers noted that kids are more likely to cross a road safely after going through a pedestrian safety program.

To start, researchers created a training program that shows children where to cross the street in different settings, including a blind curve or between parked cars. The program also teaches kids to look out for oncoming traffic and walk at crosswalks.

Kids will interact with the training program with a VR headset and gaming controller. The game’s world will be populated with trees, shadows and traffic noises to simulate a real environment.

Researchers will correct any of the kids’ errors by showing them the driver’s perspective compared to their own point of view.

Looking forward, Morrongiello said she hopes to see the VR game brought to a larger audience.

“My hope is that we can disseminate our training program to schools, community centres and libraries,” she said. “All it requires is a desktop computer or laptop, a game controller, and Oculus Rift goggles, which are all commercially available items. It’s conceivable that this could be delivered anywhere.”

Source: University of Guelph