VR has truly disrupted the conventional therapeutic techniques and protocols coming to forth as an assistive technology that helps children with disabilities like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), on a personal level and enables to remove some of the physical limitations that get in the way of their learning and development. Floreo, a VR company, specialized in ASD, is now penetrating its way in the Middle East to bring groundbreaking innovation in the Special Needs Education sector by offering VR learning tools designed to help improve social cognitive skills in autistic children.
Virtual reality provides conducive environments for children with special needs to interact with their surroundings in a different way, practice essential physical skills and support their rehabilitative goals. In the Middle East, immersive technologies innovation company VRXOne has been working to bring this technology to institutes and medical facilities for children with special needs, having recently conducted VR camp for the disabled during Bahrain Summer Festival 2018. Their One Million VR Expeditions program also puts a particular emphasis on the Special Needs Education.
Co-founder & CEO of VRXone and the ARVR & Ai Strategist MENA, Dr. Sana Farid belives that VR has transformed the domain of Special Needs Education forever, “There is a lot to be said about the way Virtual Reality has revolutionized the Special Needs Education by providing a customized approach and a unique set of learning and growth opportunities for students with disabilities, which was not possible before.”
Joining hands with Floreo – a VR startup working to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), VRXOne is working to extend the potential of Virtual Reality as a supplementary method to help develop social and communication skills for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASD is a developmental disability that typically restricts communication and interaction with others including difficulty in understanding complex facial expressions and to even recognize faces, causing significant social problems.
Unfortunately, little is known about diagnosis and treatment of ASD, and even the access to available therapy is limited for the majority. Although evidence states that early intervention treatment services can help with social skills development for children. To this end, Floreo is leveraging the potential of VR technology in facilitating multimodal adaptive social interaction integrating repeatable and supervised learning environments, automated performance data collection , and accessible, affordable therapeutic treatment. Floreo uses customized VR lessons to build real world skills that incorporate using/shifting eye gaze, cognitive development with the help of imitation and use of gestures, interaction in school environments, as well as various safety situations. Vijay Ravindran, Co-Founder & CEO of Floreo, talks about the pros of using VR for ASD saying:
“Virtual really allows the creation of immersive teaching environment that occur in 3D space, allow for repeatable practice, and can be designed to meet the learner where they are in complexity. We’re excited to partner with Dr. Farid and VRXOne to bring Floreo’s ground-breaking science-backed curriculum to the Middle East.”
The on-going research has already proved the effectiveness and usefulness of VR-based design system and places high hopes in the power of this technology to help bridge the gap between society and people affected with ASD by helping to considerably improve their social interaction.
Floreo is leveraging the power of Virtual Reality to develop a supplementary method of teaching social and communication skills for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Our VR learning tool is fun and engaging for the learner, while allowing a supervising adult to monitor and track the learner’s progress. Floreo is currently being used by schools, therapy practices, and parents. We are also running several research studies, including a study with the Center for Autism Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and National Institutes of Health.
Floreo website: https://floreotech.com/
VRXOne is a comprehensive virtual reality program for education and training.
With the use of creative and immersive technologies as well as hands-on practical tools, VRXOne offers cutting-edge customizable solutions applicable for any education or training environment in an efficient and risk-free manner while capacitating maximum optimization of productivity.
VRXOne aims at transforming the face of learning and development technologies in the Middle East as well as internationally by integrating a global operating framework interweaved with corporate and economic vision.
VRXOne media kit: http://bit.ly/2kqWXS2
VRXOne website: https://vrxone.com/
Mental health awareness means creating a world of empathy and coping with the stigma associated with it. Half the goal of this mission is achieved when the society accepts mental illness as real as physical illness. The other half is dealing with the problem and being sensitive towards the patients. We need to acknowledge mental illness, talk it out, and find solutions. Interestingly, Virtual Reality has come up as an approachable and novel method for treating types of mental health concerns. It has emerged as a viable solution for healing general stress, anxiety, tremors and phobias, depression and related disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The technology has been tested in secured and controlled environments in the form of virtual reality exposure therapy – VRET. With the prominence of VR headsets like HTC Vive, Microsoft Hololens, and VRXOne, the testing has become affordable and convenient. The scenario is far better than the mid-1990s when a head-mounted display rig would cost over $50,000. VRET has given a pragmatic direction to Telemedicine, which in turn opens doors to better healthcare conditions in rural and remote areas. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy are two prominent psychotherapeutic treatments for mental health. Under CBT, the patient attends a series of sessions where the target is to find the cause of disorder by analyzing the thought pattern of the patient and peeping into the history of phobia. The behavior of patient under challenging situations is recorded from which the source of their beliefs and notions is traced. For instance, if a patient is afraid of height, they will avoid climbing tall buildings. If they are insecure, they will avoid social gatherings. Calling them unsocial would not be a solution. It will only exacerbate the situation. CBT gives as a medium of tackling these situations and overcoming them. Exposure Therapy (ET), as the name suggests, is a treatment where the patient is exposed to such challenging situations and is gradually impelled to face them. In the real world, the exposure therapy requires extensive care and safety measures, thus making it nonviable in many situations like emulating a war zone, a crowded area, or a free fall! Also, ET goes hand in hand with CBT and is an obligatory part of it. Different kinds of health issues call for different CBTs and ETs. Another enterprise has come up with the concept of artificially intelligent virtual patients. Patients can open up to these virtual assistants whom they often trust more than doctors. Overcoming the fear of judgment, patients are able to get rid of social awkwardness. The physicians can then conduct clinical interviews and diagnostic assessments on these avatars. Facing a situation in a real therapy can be off-putting for many because the patients are usually reticent and sometimes unable to explain their behaviors. Another application of VR involves operationalizing the technology by training autistic patients and helping them gain necessary social skills. In tackling the persecutory delusions like in psychosis, VR has come out as successful again.
A Worthwhile Story Upholding The Power of Virtual Reality
Mel Slater, a professor of virtual environments shares an interesting story. “I was in one session where the guy had such a fear of public speaking that he told us about speaking at his daughter’s wedding. When we asked, ‘How old is your daughter?’, he said, ‘Three!’ He was later asked to speak in front of a virtual audience. Initially, he resisted, ‘I can’t do this, I’m turning bright red, my voice is an octave higher.’ The psychologist urged him to give it a shot and later played his video-recording asking, ‘Is your face red? No. Are you speaking an octave higher than normal? No.’ What Slater did in one afternoon would have taken 12 weeks otherwise. The result was warm and welcomed. The relevance of VR was also proven by the creation of ‘avatars’ to cope with anxiety and depression. The logic behind this simulation is rather interesting and a tad-bit twisted. The therapy happens in two stages. First of all, an avatar is created that embodies the patient who explains his problems to the psychiatrist in the therapy session. The avatar looks similar to the person and responds like him. In the next therapy session, an avatar is created of the psychiatrist and the patient embodies it. Now the psychiatrist’s avatar, maneuvered by the patient, talks to the patient’s avatar. So technically, it is the patient talking to himself. Switching roles and helping oneself – that’s the underlying idea. Why, you ask? Because we are generally too harsh and critical of ourselves. Through the virtual therapy, the patient is able to realize the problem and immerse oneself to find a solution. Here, the technology helps in the most impactful yet smooth way. Do we need to open up more about health issues? It’s a no-brainer. Of course, we do. Virtual Reality gives a chance to embrace and uplift people. We seem to have found a viable solution for improving mental health.
The notion of existence of parallel worlds or universes has intrigued mankind for a long time and we keep trying to find a passageway into those mysterious worlds. While those efforts are still underway and have yet to see any success, we already have the virtual world in our access with increasing control through the use of immersive technologies like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality or both,
This virtual world gives us complete control in a simulated environment and lets us be more creative and experimental with what is possible. This ability to control, experiment, learn and apply, is transforming the classroom experience all around the world. There is nothing better to make a child become more focused and learn better than by transporting them to a wonder world. As of now, this is the impact that these immersive virtual experiences are having on young minds where the two worlds of imagination and knowledge meet together.
What’s more exciting is that the technical and hardware limitations are also being progressively overcome by premium tech companies such as HTC, and we are able to do more within these virtual environments without breaking contact with the outside world. Dr. Sana Farid, the ARVR & Ai Strategist and Co-founder & CEO of VRXOne, has been taking HTC VIVE to classrooms all over Middle East, and has talked about her experience saying, “We have found HTC to be a game-changing experience in VR education. It has been a great experience exploring the potential of experiential learning and bringing classroom lessons to life with VIVE and the highly immersive platform of Lifeliqe, and we are hoping that the VR education will become still more enhanced in future.” Making school lessons fun and exciting, Lifeliqe is a visual learning platform that offers an extensive range of digital curriculum including highly interactive 3D as well as AR, VR and MR models designed for STEM learning.
Going back to the hardware, HTC VIVE FOCUS, the world’s first standalone virtual reality headset, actually packs some great updates to that end including smartphone integration which enables us to receive calls, messages and even view social media notifications within the FOCUS VR interface without having to take off the headset. Additionally, we have more control via FOCUS with the inclusion of gesture recognition, greater Depth of Field (6DoF) and better battery life as well as the Passenger and Surroundings modes. The ‘Passengers’ mode lets us enjoy a seated VR experience without tracking constraints whereas ‘Surrounding’ mode lets us view our surrounding real world through the Focus camera which means we don’t have to remove the headset every time we need to do something outside of the virtual world.
Alvin Wang Graylin, the China President of Vive at HTC, certainly has a bright vision for the VR future, “Standalone is a trend that will become the mass market product”, adding further he said, “I believe that VR can change the world.”
Indeed, standalone devices will have a big impact on the VR market increasing the overall accessibility and usability of the technology. As per the Technovio’s Market Research Report the global virtual reality market in education sector is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 59% until 2022 whereas the VR gear in education market is expected to reach $1,060.87 million in 2021. These are huge statistics for VR market and we certainly can’t wait for VR technology to become mainstream in education.
Working with Special Education Needs can be very heartening, though its not difficult to imagine the multiple challenges faced by their instructor. Students with cognitive, intellectual, mental, or other disabilities often deficit communication skills, apart from difficulty in concentration, focus, and expression. For our quest to contribute to enhance learning practices, we have experienced how Virtual Reality is one revolutionary method in special education in many aspects.
Increasingly being recognized as an effective tool for its rehabilitation abilities for cognitive processes and functional aspects, Virtual Reality (VR) provides special needs students with opportunities to improve their intellectual and motor skills within the safe powerful simulated virtual environments. Given that the students with special needs are limited in their ability to explore their surrounding and extended environments, VR affords them the opportunity to discover the world in fascinating virtual environments where they are able to swim with the sharks or fly in the clouds, go on space excursion and even travel to planet Mars, sounds like an exciting classroom.
This is what VRXOne is going to be showcasing at the most awaited annual Bahrain Summer Festival where Nakhool Tent is opened to the families for participation in many cultural events, educational activities and entertainment programs. Bringing “Google Expeditions for Special Education Needs” to the event, the program will be held in association with the Bahrain Association for Parents and Friends of the Disabled, which is known in the region for its brilliant contribution towards the well-being and welfare of special needs students and their families through a number of interactive events, lectures, learning activities as well as cultural celebrations.
Just last year, the Association awarded Dr. Sana Farid, the AR/VR/Ai and Simulation expert at VRXOne and Co-founder & CEO of Munfarid Consulting, for her efforts and training workshops in Technology Aided Learning & Development for the Disabled, and Assistive Technology. Her ongoing efforts for the cause are manifest through VRXOne’s One Million VR Expeditions program in the Middle East with a special focus on Special Education Needs.
Since the use of virtual environments for special needs is as diverse as the field of Special Education itself, VR offers many benefits for students with disabilities including the ability to be adaptable and controllable as per the needs of an individual student, making it all the more ideal for special education purposes. What’s even more exciting is that beyond merely providing the chance to explore and learn about places, things, processes and subjects, VR even helps equip students with life skills by simulating training environments that assist in highlighting and focusing on individual strengths, abilities and learning preferences outside of their real world disabilities.
What this does for a special needs students is essentially huge in terms of a remarkable change in their self-confidence, self-esteem and ultimately serving to transform them into contributing citizens in the society. Ms. Abla Ahmed Mohamed, the Head of Activities and Projects Committee at the Bahrain Association of Parents and Friends of the Disabled, is certainly positive about the impact of VR in a special needs classroom, “The impact of VR on special needs is fascinating. Watching