Dr. John Quarles is an assistant professor in the San Antonio Virtual Environments lab at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

He talks about some research that his student Chao Mei did in researching the impact of customizable virtual humans for hand-eye coordination training game with adolescents who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). They expected the adolescents to be more engaged and play for longer, but they didn’t expect that they would actually perform better when they’re able to customize the virtual humans within their Imagination Soccer training game.

asd

John talks about their findings as well as some of their future research that they’ll be looking into how to use eye tracking technologies in order to better train adolescents with ASD to improve the abilities of maintaining joint attention. He talks about using Tobii eye tracking along with a Kinect sensors. They’re not using VR HMDs yet because the eye tracking technology isn’t affordable enough to be accessible to all of the therapists who could use it.

John is skeptical as to whether or not virtual reality technologies will ever be able to fully replace human therapists. Even though adolescents sometimes prefer to interact with virtual humans over real-life humans, being able to successfully navigate social interactions with real people is something that they’ll ultimately need to be able to learn how to do.

The interesting takeaway that I got it that there’s something powerful and potent in allowing the users to customize the virtual humans that are in virtual environments. It seems to make people more invested and engaged, and as a result could actually enable them to perform better at specific tasks. There’s further research that needs to be done investigating this, but it adds another incentive for virtual reality developers to allow for the customization of specific elements within the experiences that they’re creating.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

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