Can VR help autistic children?

In this study a virtual environment was build to see if a virtual training agent could help autistic children in trying to relate to other children. The idea was that a virtual environment feels safer and the children will more easily accept instructions and interact with the virtual agents.

The participants would sit in a chair, wear a virtual reality headset (Oculus Rift DK2) and wear a Blood-Volume-Pulse sensor on their index finger to measure heart rate.

The scene was a classroom with two children, boy and girl, and an adult trainer (male). The virtual trainer would ask the virtual children and the participant simple questions. The actual answer of the participant was not important, but the change in heart rate was. By determining a baseline heart rate at the beginning of each trial, the software checked the actual heart rate at several points in the scenario. If the heart rate was above a certain threshold, the virtual trainer would first try to calm the participant down before continuing the conversation.

Reseachers: Laura Helgering, Michel Klein