Scientists in Poland are helping children with autism and Down's Syndrome better focus on therapeutic exercises by taking them out of their real world environment and into a specially-designed 3D cave in which their imagination can flourish. Jim Drury reports.
Autistic children can quickly lose interest in conventional therapy techniques. But in the 3D cave at Poland's Silesian University Of Technology that's not the case. Scientists led by Piotr Wodarski created this virtual world, similar to combat simulators used to train soldiers. SOUNDBITE (Polish) SILESIAN UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY SCIENTIST, PIOTR WODARSKI, SAYING: "A child entering our application activates certain motion sequences which allow the optical system to measure where the individual segments of the body are, and on this basis calculate the appropriate modules of the application so that they match the location of the objects with the reach of a palm or the position of the head of the person in our system." Therapeutic activities, like moving colourful blocks around, are programmed into the system. Professor Marek Gzik says it's helping both children with autism and Down's Syndrome focus better on their therapy. Autistic patients, in particular, can find human interaction difficult. SOUNDBITE (Polish) SILESIAN UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY SCIENTIST, PROFESSOR MAREK GZIK, SAYING: "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, objectively, measuring the mobility in their joints for instance, and then see which methods of rehabilitation are most efficient." Engineers are tweaking the system to meet children's varying levels of physical and mental development. They hope that children could soon use the program at home with virtual reality headsets.