A professor at the University of Alabama in the US has been focussing his research into ways to use technology to help children cross the road safely. His results have lead him towards virtual reality (VR).
Statistics have shown that pedestrian road accidents are a leading cause of death among children, both in the USA and around the world. To combat this, professor David Schwebel has begun using a mobile app for Google Cardboard to teach children the fundamentals of road safety in an easy to understand, and totally safe, environment.
Schwebel’s initial trials were on PCs, then in a large mobile simulator, but he realised that a more portable and accessible format was required, which was when the idea of using Google Cardboard was born.
The application recreates a virtual road, road crossing and pavement in front of a school and fills the road with various traffic patterns. The child must then decide when it is safe to cross and press a button on the headset to active the crossing action. Users can watch their avatar cross the road, and so learn if they managed to cross safely.
The study is still in progress, so full results are not yet available, but Schwebel says that almost all the participants, who are between 7 and 8 years of age, have been able to complete adult-level virtual scenarios safely, successfully crossing the road with realistic traffic patterns.
“The development of Google Cardboard allowed us to make our pedestrian simulator completely accessible,” Schwebel said. “It’s simple and affordable, and gives us hope that we can bring this tool to children worldwide. We have already conducted parallel research to train children in pedestrian safety in China, and envision a future where location-specific pedestrian environments are simulated, and training is distributed using mobile smartphones to schoolchildren worldwide.”
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