An Irish EdTech firm has secured over €100,000 in funding to launch a new project which will investigate how virtual reality (VR) technology impacts children’s health.
Enterprise Ireland high-potential start-up (HPSU) Zeeko business model is to promote a healthy balance for children using screen devices and the internet, by working with parents and children themselves.
The latest funding drive for the NovaUCD-headquartered company has been achieved through the Horizon 2020 SME Innovation Associate Programme
Founded by Joe Kenny in 2013, Zeeko is exploring the growing popularity of VR with children, an activity that supports vivid sensorial immersion in 3D-animated worlds.
A small number of studies on the effects of VR on children have been carried out to date but Dr Marina Everri, Head of Research, Zeeko said that “in reality very little is known about the impact of VR on body, cognition, and social relations, especially during a child’s development.”
“More research, such as the research we are about to commence, is needed to understand the interplay of children’s individual characteristics, their relational and cultural context, and the opportunities and challenges offered by VR technology,” she said.
Social psychologist Dr Marina Everri will lead the research project which will recruit a group of teachers, parents and children, aged 10 to 12 years, through primary schools in Ireland, to participate in an ethnographic study.
Carried out both in schools and in home environments, the study will monitor children’s activities with VR in different everyday life scenarios such as lessons at school, completing homework, or leisure time.
The recordings will then be discussed with the children, and parents and teachers will also be involved in group discussions and interviews.
CEO Joe Kenny said the plan is to complete this research project in Ireland by September 2018 and thereafter to expand the project to the UK and Italy as well as other European countries.
“The aim of the project is to identify side effects of VR technology and to create an innovative solution to any nascent problems identified with VR. This compliments our plan to develop a new educational platform to support children’s critical thinking and discovery of solutions to risky online situations,” he said.
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