A team of researchers at the University of Malta decided to work on the problem of autism using Virtual Reality. As a tool, VR will help neurotypical teachers understand their students with autism by the lived experience of autistic children.
The researchers created a VR application that would help replicate the experience of an autistic child in their classrooms by the use of audio and videos.
“Let’s help the teacher walk in these children’s shoes, in the same classroom environment that she’s teaching in, and try to see what comes out of it. Can virtual reality be an empathy machine? How can we learn more from it to design something that can help improve the quality of life of others? Because ultimately that’s what we wanted to do: improve the quality of life of children by helping teachers tweak their behavior,” said Vanessa Camilleri, a lecturer at the University’s Department of Artificial Intelligence.
The researchers’ app isn’t yet available for use, but the team wants to make it available to teachers via the Samsung Gear headset.
“We didn’t want to teach about the different characteristics or show the whole spectrum of autism. We didn’t want to give teachers step-by-step guidelines of what they should or shouldn’t do. We just want to help teachers start creating these new experiences in their minds, as if they were children on the autism spectrum,” Vanessa Camilleri further stated.