This time next week, millions of kids will be happily bashing away on their new videogame consoles and games.
For many, gaming is nothing more than escapism and entertainment. A chance to get out of the real world for a while and play sports, race cars, or beat people up.
But for some kids, gaming is serious business.
I’m not talking about those geeks you find at the arcade.
I’m referring to kids who actually need the distraction of the gaming world to help them focus in the real world.
Children who suffer from conditions like autism and Down syndrome.
And they’re getting some essential therapy, thanks to a cave in Poland.
But this is no ordinary cave…
To the Therapy Cave, Batman!
Due to the difficulties that autistic children have in focusing and interacting with humans in the real world, scientists at the Silesian University of Technology have designed a special 3-D cave that transports them into a virtual world, and helps them concentrate on therapeutic exercises.
The cave is basically a virtual reality world that’s based on simulators that are used to train soldiers.
The idea is that it keeps the children stimulated by constantly triggering their imagination.
One of the scientists behind the cave, Piotr Wodarski, says, “A child entering our [cave] activates certain motion sequences, which allows the optical system to measure where the segments of the body are… so they match the location of the objects with the reach of a palm or the position of the head of the person.”
For example, the children are asked to move colored building blocks around in a more interactive way than they would do in a regular therapy session.
Fellow creator of the virtual reality therapy cave, Marek Gzik, says, “Getting through to these children can be difficult. But thanks to this technology, they open up, and we can diagnose their problems properly, in detail and objectively. We measure the mobility in their joints, for instance, and then see which methods of rehabilitation are most efficient.”
Further refinements to the system will include customizing it a little more, in order to adapt to each child’s individual needs and varying levels of mental and physical development.
Ultimately – and ideally – they want children to be able to use the virtual reality system with headsets in the home.
Gaming and virtual reality is used to entertain… it’s used to train soldiers, pilots, and law enforcement in simulators… and it’s used to provide essential learning and therapy to kids who’d otherwise be lost in the real world.