Graduate students from the University of Hull have developed a virtual reality (VR) experience that is specifically designed for children who are on the autistic spectrum, called Botanika.
The videogame allows the user to have the experience of growing their own virtual garden, which can be designed and altered to the user’s desires, and then planted and tended. The aim is to give autistic children an environment that is entirely under their control.
Botanika was developed by VISR VR, which is made up of University of Hull graduates, in conjunction with autism awareness charity, CASPA. The videogame itself was commissioned by tech giant Microsoft.
Louis Deane, co-founder of VISR, and Computer Science graduate, said: “People just love 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.”
The experience involves the player choosing the world they want, and selecting a garden shed to start from. A garden is then built around the shed, with everything from trees to garden benches available to be added. There are even mini-games such as archery available, and the opportunity to visit another player’s garden, or assist in planning and constructing a garden with someone else.
VISR VR hopes that Botanika will be released on Xbox, PlayStation, PC and mobile. The team are conscious of the vast opportunities presented by VR technology. Ellie Battersby, from VISR, said: “Virtual reality is going to be integrated into everything. We deal with VR on a daily basis and when we show people what it can do they are awestruck and it puts a smile on your face, because you forget how incredible this technology really is. “There are so many more applications for virtual reality and it is great to be at the forefront of this. A lot of people don’t realise this is happening, and it’s happening in Hull. To be able to create something using virtual reality which can help people is an amazing feeling.”
VRFocus will bring you further updates on Botanika and other VR projects as they come in.