VR Space Allowing Friendly Engagements

A virtual reality application assisting children with autism engage in social interactions

The Virtual Reality Space Allowing Friendly Engagements (VR SAFE) is a proof of concept developed for the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC). This application provides researchers with a technical solution capable of assisting in the clinical diagnosis and analysis of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This proof of concept is used to quantify potential metrics needed to objectively diagnose the severity of the disorder.

Current research on applying quantifiable metrics enabling to objectively diagnose children with ASD is sparse. By developing the VR SAFE platform, the solution equips researchers with a behavioral training program designed to develop and encourage positive social interactions in children with ASD. Simultaneously, the platform empowers researchers to measure and collect minute responses in the patient using the HTC Pro Eye integrated with Tobii eye tracking hardware.

The successful release of this project was achieved by providing a virtually interactive environment, emulating life-like social situations using the Unity gaming engine. The system was equipped to execute preprogrammed scenarios outlined by the client. Measurements relating to eye movement, gaze, and positional data are captured thousands of times a second, packaged, and stored to the local harddrive in a JSON format. This test provides children with ASD an opportunity to become acclimated to interacting with peers in socailly appropriate ways while simultaneously providing researchers with the controlled environment necessary to diagnose the severity of the disorder with more precision than previously possible.