Virtual reality experiences offer therapy for children with special needs

The first virtual reality therapy experience for children has been launched by VR Kids, a company developing stress-relieving VR software for children whose illnesses or conditions prevent them from easily leaving home or a hospital.

Designed for children, teens and young adults who spend the majority of time in a wheelchair or bed at home or in a specialist care environment, the VR experiences are intended to combat anxiety, provide happiness and provide children with the opportunity to forge positive mental and physical connections.

The experiences, which are designed for Oculus Rift and work as an interactive story, are intended to be highly intuitive, providing an adventure that VR Kids says has no learning curve and so can be enjoyed from the outset.

Images courtesy of VR Kids

Images courtesy of VR Kids

The first experience, ‘Journey to the Big Bear Festival’, is designed for children with learning difficulties.

The main character, Teddy, takes the child on a journey to meet his friends Tessa and Roompus before bringing them to a firework display. Scene changes are even handled by Teddy, who uses his magical powers to warp the player between scenes as diverse as a giant mushroom-filled forest, a pumpkin farm and a magic carpet ride over a lake.

“As a kid, I got excited thinking about how virtual reality could change the world; today through a culmination of my life’s experiences and my passion for technology and helping children,” said RJ Sampson, founder, president and CEO of VR Kids.

“I’m excited to say that ‘Journey to the Big Bear Festival’ and virtual reality will help children with special needs.”

VR Kids at present only offers its service in Las Vegas, US, taking the software and headset to the child directly, but plans to expand access in the future.

As a non-profit, it does not charge for sessions in the greater Las Vegas area, and parents can request a session for their child through an online form.

Once the consumer version of the Oculus Rift is released, it seems likely the company will expand to allow the download and remote use of its experiences so that it is not constrained by specific locations. However, VR Kids has not yet confirmed this.

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