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Can VR Help Adoptive Parents Empathise with Orphaned Children?

The Cornerstone Partnership, a social enterprise encouraging innovation and partnership to improve the life chances of children in care, has commissioned tech innovation agency INITION to create a virtual reality (VR) training tool for new adoptive parents. Unveiled at London City Hall on 24th October 2017, the interactive experience capitalises on VR’s propensity for driving empathy and enhancing training through memorable immersion; features that help people gain a visceral insight into why children who have experienced trauma behave the way they do.

Being Me logoThe experience, Being Me, also trains new adoptive parents in ‘restorative parenting’ techniques by bringing to life the ‘PACE parenting model’. To achieve these goals, Being Me simulates the experience of a child who has come into care and has to get to know new adoptive parents.

The first scene is in utero so that users can sense domestic violence and substance abuse from the perspective of an unborn child. In the second scenario, users assume the point-of-view of an 18-month-old child who experiences neglect, abandonment, substance abuse and domestic violence.

The next chapter puts users in the shoes of a seven-year-old child in an adoptive family. The child has been sent home from school for fighting. The adoptive mother reacts in different ways so that users can experience, first-hand, the benefits of PACE parenting.

Being Me screenshotThe experience, which is interactive to help users gain a better understanding of how their different parenting approaches impact on outcomes, was designed for the Samsung Gear VR headset using bespoke 360 degree, stereoscopic footage and spatial sound. CG imagery was incorporated using the Unity engine.

The Cornerstone Partnership’s CEO, Helen Costa, commented: “While VR has been used in therapeutic and research contexts, using VR as a training tool to accelerate behaviour change is something new. After much research, we believe VR can have a major application in social care settings and in addressing a wide range of mental health issues for children.

“From the get-go INITION really understood what we were trying to do and have delivered an impactful storyline that puts adopters in the shoes of their children, helping them to understand why children in the care system behave the way they do, what triggers shame and anger and how adopters can help children recover from trauma through the practice of restorative parenting. This pilot has given us further confidence that placing VR at the heart of our strategy is timely and we look forward to rolling out more immersive content over the coming year.”

Being Me screenshotINITION’s CEO, Adrian Leu, added: “INITION actively seeks partnerships with third sector organisations because it creates powerful and exciting opportunities to accelerate behavioural change through creative strategy and immersive technologies.

“Because VR fully immerses its users, it is the perfect platform to help adopters empathise with traumatised children whilst gaining a visceral understanding of how their parenting can help. From a storytelling point of view, we had tread a delicate line between creating an experience that was powerful enough to affect change, without emotionally overloading users, most of whom will be experiencing VR for the first time.”

There’s currently no word on whether the application will be rolled out for public audiences to experience for themselves, however Being Me represents just another of the ways in which VR – even in this early stage – can be a beneficial technology upon many different areas of modern society. VRFocus will keep you updated with all the latest innovations in VR care, and be sure to check out our own VR Diversity Initiative, with more events planned to be announced soon.