Virtual reality technology is being used in a new trial to help tackle the issues caused by serious youth violence.
The trial is a collaborative effort between Westminster City Council and The Fred Company. A series of workshops is intended to take place with young people and their parents. The trial is aimed at those who have been affected by some form of violence and criminal activity.
Select groups of young people and parents have been invited to weekly sessions which feature VR headsets. The headsets are equipped with a variety of apps, including fishing, nature walks, cooking and go-kart racing. These apps are intended to be used to promote relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety for the user.
Virtual reality sessions
Evidence has suggested that VR technology can be an effective tool in reducing the symptoms of depression and PTSD. The project will have a cognitive neuroscientist working alongside staff members at the Integrated Gangs and Exploitation Unit (IGXU) to deliver each session.
Virtual reality is being used in other ways beyond just entertainment. Workplaces are using VR and augmented reality to conduct training in the workplace. The serious games market which focuses on educational games is seeing growth through the use of VR. Students can train in the safe environment of VR, data shows that it works as an effective training method.
Additionally the programme is looking to improve engagement between young people and the council’s IGXU. This unit works to identify and help young people who may be involved in gangs or are being exploited. So far results from the programme have been promising. With a high level of attendance and engagement with activities. The sessions have also allowed young people to understand what services are available to them through the IGXU.
A positive shift
Participants in the programme are asked to score their mood at the beginning and end of each session. These scores have shown that participants always felt in a better mood after taking part in the VR sessions.
One young participant commented that “There’s been days where I would be really angry and upset. And my mood has just shifted. I put the headset on and I just feel much better after. It’s wicked, I love it.”
Creative director at The Fred Company, Rosie Collins commented on the programme saying “It’s been a real pleasure collaborating with Westminster IGXU to explore how our VR programmes can be used to support wellbeing and engagement across many different groups. The results have been fantastic and support what we’ve seen in our many other projects. VR can be used as a powerful tool to quickly facilitate open conversations and create deep connections between people. Across a range of different groups, we regularly see marked shifts in mood. Even within a single session: reducing stress, improving feelings of hope and excitement.”
Due to the popularity and promising results of the programme, the council is looking to expand the project. Following this success the council also intends to explore the potential of VR technology to teach lessons such as maths and science.