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Title: Empathizing with autistic children : using a virtual reality application as a medium
Authors: Haddod, Foaad
Keywords: Human-computer interaction
Autism in children
Virtual reality in education
Computer-assisted instruction
Issue Date: 2018
Citation: Haddod, F. (2018). Empathizing with autistic children : using a virtual reality application as a medium (Master's dissertation).
Abstract: Virtual reality has a promising potential use to help users better understand how autistic children interact with their surrounding environments. The literature shows limited applications of virtual reality technology in this area. The main goal of this project was to develop a novel mobile application using virtual reality technology to mimic the surrounding world of an autistic child when she is at school. Such a virtual reality application is intended to help teachers and Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) better understand, and effectively interact with, autistic children when they are at school. In this project, different software and hardware were used to develop and run the VR application including: Unity, Adobe After Effects, 360º Camera, sound recorded, VR Gear, and a mobile phone device. The developed virtual reality environment included eight scenes, and four of them were directly related to the autistic child’s interaction activities while at school. The developed VR application prototype, and its final versions, were tested to identify improvement areas and to make necessary changes in its design and development. After the final VR application was tried by a number of users, the results revealed that the developed application had a positive impact on the users’ level of understanding and awareness about autism. For example, the users’ level of understanding about autism increased 32% after trying the developed VR application. The results also showed that the users’ level of empathy with autistic children’s situation has increased after trying the developed VR application. In addition, about 85% of the users who tried the VR application reported that the application had a great impact on them. Finally, 98.4% of the users stated they would suggest this VR application to friends and colleagues. The use of the developed VR application can offer great benefits to schools that have autistic children not only in Malta but worldwide. Further research may explore including more tools or elements in the designed VR environment to better measure users’ empathy levels. This can be done by connecting external devices to the VR application. It is also recommended to develop similar VR applications to mimic autistic children’s behaviour in other situations and environments (other than at school) such as: home, shopping, leisure time. It is also suggested to explore how similar VR applications can be developed to help understand how other special groups interact with their surrounding environments. For example, disabled people (mute and deaf) and elderly people in nursing homes.
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacICT - 2018
Dissertations - FacICTAI - 2018

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