How Virtual Reality will save children lives in Eastern Ukraine

How Virtual Reality will save children lives in Eastern Ukraine

Thanks to IT Ukraine Association and UNICEF, we’re sharing the translation of the original article.

Unexploded ordnance and explosives are taking more and more lives as a result of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, which has been escalating for the past six years. According to UNICEF, one of three injured children here have been victims of mines and explosive remnants of war. More than 430,000 children live in the areas located on both sides along the line of conflict. However, only 57% of children under the age of 12 surveyed in the area, are able to identify explosives.

In the spring of 2020, IT Ukraine Association and UNICEF signed a cooperation memorandum. Their first step is to develop an interactive VR product called Mine Awareness VR, which is aimed to bring up the mine risk awareness among children in Eastern Ukraine. The project is set to start this Fall. WeAR Studio and MacPaw became technical partners of the project. WeAR Studio develops the VR part of the project, while MacPaw provides VR glasses.

The developers say that the result of their work will be a virtual learning platform for different groups of people — junior and middle school students, as well as their parents and teachers. To pass the simulation (get into a specially designed virtual reality), they have to wear VR glasses. The participants will find themselves in the so-called gamified spheres, which will be photographed by 3d cameras and accurately represent real environments where contact with explosive objects may take place. All this is being developed in close cooperation with the WeAR Studio team and experts on both mine disarming and children phycology from UNICEF. In an imaginary «journey» the participants will be accompanied by a virtual assistant.

Anna Manukhina, CSR Manager in MacPaw says, that the company has always taken an active social position, and three years ago this philosophy was finally embodied in MacPawCares social initiatives, which inspire many to create new communities and social projects. Anna is confident that the Mine Awareness VR project will help children understand the dangers of mines and explain how to avoid them.

We are sure that we work with specialists with in-depth expertise. We gladly joined the project when we had the opportunity to. VR product will help children to learn the rules how to behave near mines and ammunition that have not exploded in an edutainment format. Gradually, this unique tool can help change the situation in Ukraine,

— says Anna.

Vivid and safe demonstrations are among the main advantages of the project. Children will be able to recognize dangerous locations, so they will not risk their lives when they go to school or play in the yard. It is also important that parents study with their children, so they can be reminded of the dangers. VR makes memorization faster. Mariia Tintul, Head of Business Development at WeAR Studio, says it’s an opportunity for parents and children to see risk areas in a safe virtual environment. For the company itself, it is a chance to draw the world’s attention to the situation in the Eastern Ukraine and demonstrate how VR can teach and save lives.

Mine Awareness VR is definitely a challenge for our team. We strive to develop creative immersive solutions for the good, and we want to see more such projects. At the same time, we hope that there will be fewer reasons for them,

— shares Mariia

There are the following Development stages ahead of us:

  • Define the goals of the project and comprehension patterns of it’s target audiences;
  • Develop the full concept of scenario and general UX design of the simulation;
  • Collect and study data, enrich the scenario with details;
  • Technical development of the project along the deliverables;
  • Testing with beta test groups and app polishing.

The Mine Awareness VR project requires careful elaboration and close cooperation of it’s participants because of how sensitive and impactful it may become. That includes developers, psychologists, explosives specialists and UNICEF specialists, who have considerable experience working with children in the area of ??armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine. However, WeAR Studio team is confident that Mine Awareness VR will become the standard in practice for several years to come, and the project will be a model example of the introduction of immersive technologies in educational processes not only in our country.

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