Virtual reality experiences offer therapy for children with special needs

The first virtual reality therapy experience for children has been launched by VR Kids, a company developing stress-relieving VR software for children whose illnesses or conditions prevent them from easily leaving home or a hospital.

Designed for children, teens and young adults who spend the majority of time in a wheelchair or bed at home or in a specialist care environment, the VR experiences are intended to combat anxiety, provide happiness and provide children with the opportunity to forge positive mental and physical connections.

The experiences, which are designed for Oculus Rift and work as an interactive story, are intended to be highly intuitive, providing an adventure that VR Kids says has no learning curve and so can be enjoyed from the outset.

Images courtesy of VR Kids

Images courtesy of VR Kids

The first experience, ‘Journey to the Big Bear Festival’, is designed for children with learning difficulties.

The main character, Teddy, takes the child on a journey to meet his friends Tessa and Roompus before bringing them to a firework display. Scene changes are even handled by Teddy, who uses his magical powers to warp the player between scenes as diverse as a giant mushroom-filled forest, a pumpkin farm and a magic carpet ride over a lake.

“As a kid, I got excited thinking about how virtual reality could change the world; today through a culmination of my life’s experiences and my passion for technology and helping children,” said RJ Sampson, founder, president and CEO of VR Kids.

“I’m excited to say that ‘Journey to the Big Bear Festival’ and virtual reality will help children with special needs.”

VR Kids at present only offers its service in Las Vegas, US, taking the software and headset to the child directly, but plans to expand access in the future.

As a non-profit, it does not charge for sessions in the greater Las Vegas area, and parents can request a session for their child through an online form.

Once the consumer version of the Oculus Rift is released, it seems likely the company will expand to allow the download and remote use of its experiences so that it is not constrained by specific locations. However, VR Kids has not yet confirmed this.

Wishing you a futuristic Christmas and a fantastic New Year from team Factor

Factor is taking a break for the Christmas season, but we’ll be returning in January for more futuristic news and features.

Until then, check out our stunning new digital magazine, which is free to read on any device for your future fix.

From the issues of today, to the future of tomorrow and beyond, there’s something for everyone, from flying cars and Richard Stallman on privacy to life in the 22nd century and the space colonies of the future human race. There’s even a look at the Christmas dinners of the future.

And if you’re still looking for presents, check out of bumper futuristic gift guide for ideas to suit every budget.

Merry Christmas, and see you in 2018!

FCC votes to repeal net neutrality rules

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the so-called net neutrality regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service on certain content. The FCC’s net neutrality rules were originally passed in 2015.

Doctors say Haemophilia A trial results are "mind-blowing"

Doctors say the results of a gene therapy trial into haemophilia A, whose suffers don't produce a protein needed to stop bleeding, are "mind-blowing". Thirteen patients given the gene therapy at Barts Health NHS Trust are now off treatment with 11 producing near-normal levels of the protein.

Source: BBC

Scientists use stem cells to make paralysed rat walk again

Scientists have used stem cells from an adult human's mouth to induce spinal cord regeneration in a rat. This effectively created a pathway circumventing the injured area so that instructions from the brain could reach the rest of the body, curing the animal that was previously totally paralysed.

NASA uses AI to find new exoplanet

Researchers have announced the discovery of an eighth planet orbiting the star Kepler-90. The discovery of Kepler 90i was made when researchers on the Kepler planet-hunting telescope teamed up with artificial intelligence specialists at Google to analyse data collected by the space-based observatory.

AI engine AlphaZero's win will "scramble" chess world

Having beaten the world's the highest-rated chess engine Stockfish, world champion chess player Viswanathan Anand believes the AI programme AlphaZero will change the way humans play the game. "We've got a clean start and the implications are very interesting," said Anand.

Source: ESPN

Following criticism, animal shelter fires security robot

A San Francisco animal adoption agency will immediately stop using a controversial security robot. The move comes after the San Francisco SPCA had been criticised for its deployment of a Knightscope K9 to mitigate vandalism and the presence of homeless people at its Mission District office.

Source: Ars Technica