This is the blog for the AHRC/ESRC funded UK-Japan network focused on location-based VR for children.

There is a demand for location-based VR experiences for children in a range of sectors that include entertainment, education and health. The need is evidenced in the findings of the commercially-funded research entitled ‘Children and VR (CVR)’ that shows how 8 to 12-year-olds use VR in highly tactile ways, that cross virtual and physical environments. This is the case even when the content has not been designed with this intention and thus indicates a desire for mixed reality as opposed to purely digital immersive experiences (Yamada-Rice, et al, 2017).

Further, market research data from Dubit Global Trends (2018) provides initial insight into how the technology fits into children’s everyday lives to suggest that location-based virtual experiences are likely to be sought because they are more inclusive and engaging than devices and content currently available for the domestic market. Also, many households are too busy or don’t have enough space or money to set up VR experiences in the home.

The need for further research on location-based experiences is also apparent in other sectors too such as education, wider creative industries (i.e. theatre and museums), as well as child health.

John Potter (Co-I) has been studying VR and children as part of the ‘Playing the Archive’ project (EPSRC funded). In the health sector, Dylan Yamada-Rice has received Innovate UK funding to produce a mixed reality play kit to help children have an MRI scan without general aesthetic. Additionally, Steve Love (Co-I) is concluding an AHRC/EPSRC Research and Partnership Development call for the Next Generation of Immersive Experiences which is focused on setting design standards for VR for child use.

Playing the Archive

This network project brings researchers and industry representatives together to join up knowledge, begin exploratory research, to understand the best methodologies for studying children’s use of VR, and draw together our established networks to make sustainable pathways that can make real impact in the field.

Linking with Japan also provides the opportunity to strengthen UK research and development as it is the contect for leading development of location-based VR experiences, having dedicated arcades for virtual content (i.e. VR Zone Osaka).

VR Zone Osaka

Research in Japan is also focused on the next generation of experiences, such as that being carried out by our Professor Narumi (Co-I) who is undertaking research and development in areas such as virtual embodiment through physical additions designed to fit the body.

The chance to undertake KE activities with Japanese partners is further important because research on semiotics and related social practices shows how unlike English, Japanese communication practices foregrounds emotional expression rather than objects and time (e.g. Shelton & Okayama, 2006). This is particularly relevant to VR because the medium is increasingly considered a good match for content that centres on emotions and empathy which are important to both game, entertainment and health design, and is emerging as the key affordance that is separating this medium from others that have gone before.