South East Wales

Virtual reality app to teach road safety to children

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Media captionHave pupils learned enough to give the road safety app a green light?

An app using similar technology to Pokemon Go is being developed to help teach road safety to primary school children.

Pupils will be able to learn road-crossing skills through the "virtual reality" game.

The app has been developed by University of South Wales (USW) academics, who have received £67,500 funding from the Road Safety Trust.

Dr Catherine Purcell said they hoped it would be highly engaging for children.

The app will project a "virtual environment" with roads, cars and designated crossing points which children will be able to see by moving a tablet computer, like an iPad, left and right.

Crossing at a safe point in the road will earn them points but these will be deducted if they step out in the road dangerously.

It follows research by USW academics Dr Purcell, a specialist in psychology, and games design expert Dr Mike Reddy.

They found children learnt better through an "egocentric" first-person perspective.

As part of the research, they have been working with St Woolos Primary School, in Newport, for five years.

"Road safety is a dynamic, ever-changing challenge," Dr Purcell said.

"What I found is that younger children are typically poorer at making perceptional judgements.

"The last study I have just completed tried to look at [whether there is] a preference in the way they learn about road safety.

"The results from that study were quite clear - they much preferred being immersed in the environment and, as a consequence, this new project has evolved."

St Woolos head teacher Heather Vaughan said: "Children see it as something that has status because it's an app and it's good fun to do.

"I think working in collaboration with USW to design the app means that... the developers have a complete handle on what children want out of it and what's really workable."

Dr Purcell and Dr Reddy have until September to develop a prototype and hope the app will be rolled out in January.

If successful, they will seek additional funding to develop it further, with a view to sharing it free of charge with schools across the UK.

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