When Virtual Reality (VR) meets Autism

Autism. The term which the German psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler coined for the unfortunate happenstance of its victim. Deciphering the word for its true meaning, one would discover from its Greek root, ‘autos’ (self) and ‘ismos’ (action/state) and share the bleak outlook which the 20th-century psychiatrist had for the condition, a condition of morbid self-absorption. One who stubbornly shut the door to the external world, ceasing all meaningful exchange with society. Despite the warmest possible gesture one could possibly display in the attempt to save the tormented soul from his own elusive, self-imposed prison, one would only be greeted with a frosty distant gaze, desperately trying to break the chain of humane contact that traverse the barrier into his inner world, destructively shatter the only solemnity he has never doubted to accept.

Image adapted from https://jnnp.bmj.com

Yet despite numerous humanitarians’ endeavours being thwarted by seemingly ungrateful actions, perhaps it is the misunderstanding that widened the schism far beyond the leap towards salvation that autistic individuals could manage? Perhaps deep within there resides a soul which is wailing for aid, yet due to his fundamentally different perspective fail to comprehend the caring intent of those who are around them? Perhaps it is the lack of probable channels that the mental wall was not torn down, but instead grew thicker?

With the advent of virtual reality (VR), it finally presents a viable instrument to bridge the gap between the autistic individual and the world around. As much autism presents itself as a pervasive obstacle towards the development of affected children, autistic individuals due to their laudable aptitude in intense concentration, they are talented individuals. It is however due to the inherent nature of the real environment having stimuli in excess that flooded the sensory input of the autistic children, leading to seeming impairments of learning abilities. Virtual reality, on the other hand, is artificial, human manipulated. As such any session in itself has the option to be as personalized and limited in its stimuli as deemed fit by the instructor for visual and auditory learning. VR is also safer in the way that it is void of the risks present in the real world. Thus VR technology in itself may prove to be the most effective special needs children pedagogical tools to date.

It is thus the main driving force behind the VR Hackathon that is organized by USM IEEE Student Branch and also a few PhD researchers from Cambridge University, UK, which will be conducted for two days straight (28-29 August 2018) at USM Main Campus, for which the registration for the participation of the event will end on the 5th of August 2018. The Hackathon itself will be equipped state of the art VR kit to assist participants in their realization of ideas, which is proposed before the event, of extending their aiding hands to the autistic community, by which the idea will be developed upon by participants which are grouped by the committee of the event depending of suitability of the prior proposal of idea, as well as the balances between participants with technical background and those with seasoned opinion on the challenge faced by autistic individual. The event itself will provide a precious opportunity for participants to embark upon the great journey to break free the traditional methodology and bring in innovation as novel solutions to finally effectively propel those of special needs into the brave new world.

VR Hackathon event poster

VR Hackathon Registration Link: https://goo.gl/forms/jOdaYHCJYdjqF8Mq1

For more event details, please visit,
Facebook: USM IEEE Student Branch
Website: http://usmieeesb.eng.usm.my
Contact: [email protected]

Posted in Psychology articles and tagged , , , .

I am currently an undergraduate, studying Electronic Engineering at Universiti Sains Malaysia. Also, I am the Chairman of USM IEEE Student Branch.

I love to teach the younger generation about technical stuff, like Microcontroller, coding and so on. Besides, I love innovative ideas as well, especially when implementing modern technology for the well-being of mankind.

With the dreams to educate the younger generation so that they wont be eliminated by the fast pace evolving technology, I am always dedicated to endeavors which excite the interest of children to learn about the latest technology.

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