Location-based Virtual Reality experiences for children: Japan-UK knowledge exchange network

Lead Research Organisation: Royal College of Art
Department Name: School of Communications

Abstract

This UK-Japan knowledge exchange and research network consists of academics in the fields of social sciences, design and computing working alongside commercial partners to focus on location-based VR experiences for children. It responds to a demand for location-based VR experiences for children in a range of sectors that include entertainment, education and health. It builds on emerging research findings that suggest that context specific experiences are evolving as the next generation of immersive experiences.
The funding will be used to link key stakeholders working in this area, join up knowledge, begin exploratory research, and establish the best methodologies for studying children's use of VR. In doing so the network will establish sustainable pathways that can make real impact in the field. This will be done by undertaking a series of knowledge exchange activities to identify what is known and establish the most essential areas of research and development that need to be taken forward in order to produce engaging and safe location-based VR experiences for children.

Planned Impact

This project will generate the world's first dedicated cross-sector network for advancing and sharing knowledge to support the development of location-based virtual reality (VR) experiences designed specifically for children.

The network will be established by leading researchers, developers and public organisations with established interests in building shared capabilities for developing children's VR, including designing future experiences, establishing robust design standards and developing the innovative methodologies that are needed to lead children-centred and critically informed innovation in this area.

The network will directly benefit these groups by bringing together disparate and currently unconnected world-leading cross-sector experts based in the UK and Japan to share knowledge and ideas, establish common research agendas and identify opportunities for informing research and innovation directions for children's VR in the UK and Japan.

The primary beneficiaries of the network include:

- Commercial children's VR developers in the UK and Japan, who will gain new insights, methods and methodologies, and cross-sector partnerships that will inform or enable research and innovation directed at the creation of new VR products designed specifically for children. These organisations, which include a broad range of companies small and large in the UK and Japan, will also gain additional benefits from contributing to the development of design standards aimed at supporting informed innovation in this area. Alongside producing its own documentation geared towards informing industry practice, the network will also catalyse the development of new areas of research that will provide further insights into children's engagement with and use of VR.

- Public organisations in the UK and Japan, who will gain detailed new understanding of children's uses of VR in two different cultures alongside design approaches and concerns for the application/adoption of VR in public and private contexts, including health, education and culture. These organisations will further benefit from contributing to the development of design standards for children's VR, ensuring the standards address and encompass public concerns and benefits.

- Individuals in the UK and Japan, including children and their parents, carers, and professionals who interact with children, who will gain new insights into the development of VR experiences designed specifically for children. These individuals, including those who participate directly in the research, will also gain additional benefits from research brought together and catalysed by the network into the health and safety of children's interactions with VR technologies, including the effects of VR on children's wellbeing and development.

Alongside appealing to these beneficiaries, the network will also connect with national and international media, technology and policy organisations, to ensure the aims and outcomes of the network are disseminated as widely as possible and to provide opportunities for enhancing participation in the network during and beyond its funded period.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title The Village: Location-based VR experience for children 
Description The Village was a collaboration between the network, another RCUK funded project called 'Playing the Archive' and MA Information Experience Design students at the Royal College of Art. One of this funding objectives was to create a prototype of a location-based VR experience for children based on some of the project's findings and to provide the opportunity for children to interact with it in a museum. We were asked to collaborate with the Playing the Archive project who were seeking to disseminate some of their findings at a Play Festival at the V&A Museum of Childhood. To do so, we used the topic of turning a traditional theme of play (dolls house play) into a location-based VR experience for children attending the Play Festival. We used the Story-worlding methodology created during the network to include children in an inner city primary school into the design of the VR experience. The experience also paid particular attention to physical materials (not only virtual materials) and details which were two of the project's findings. Details of the development of the prototype can be found here: https://ukjapanvr.wordpress.com/2019/09/18/the-village-toy-design-for-vr/ Below is the URL listing the dissemination of the prototype at the V&A Museum of Childhood event. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact The Impact was the opportunity to connect our work on VR for children, a new and emerging form of play with that of a large- scale project that looks at the history of play (Playing the Archive). Also to collaborate with the V&A in the dissemination of the event. Further, we invite industry members from the BBC, Storycentral and Kids Know Best to visit the exhibition and explore it as an example of what best practice for VR content for younger children could be. 
URL https://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/events/festival-of-play/
 
Description The project does not end until end of May 2020 so not all the data has been analysed, however the data connected to Phase One: Current State of Play of Virtual Reality in Industry were analysed using Thematic Analysis with the following themes emerging:
1. The Virtual Unreal- the desire of audiences to engage with virtual content that depicts imagined and unreal narratives.
2. Illusion and Magic- the development of VR technologies to create illusions and magic to make the unreal seem realistic.
3. Materials & Details- the role of physical materials and attention to detail to bring audiences into virtual spaces, to allow them to feel connected to, as well as secure in virtual experiences.
4. Emotions & Social- the importance of VR as a social and emotional experience.

From now we will analyse data connected to:
Phase Two: Current state of play in VR Development in Japanese Academia
Phase Three: Development of methodology for including children into the design of location-based VR experience
Phase Four: Development of a location-based VR experience for children
Exploitation Route Too early to say the project is still active
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Healthcare,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://ukjapanvr.wordpress.com/
 
Description The project is still active so it is too early to provide details however, we have begun collaborations with Industry partners (Hashilus and Pokemon Company in Japan) to see how the findings can be used to support children in disaster preparedness through VR play. Likewise, a collaboration is emerging with Great Ormond Street Hospital to see how the findings can be used in the development of new types of play for hospitalised children. We will provide further details of these in the next reporting period.
 
Description Postgraduate Teaching: Unit on Extra Sensory Perception
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Title Storyworlds 
Description This method uses physical materials to model prototypes for VR development. The project showed how this was also an effective means for including children in the design of location-based VR experiences. 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - human 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The method was used by Yamada-Rice (PI) working with MA Information Experience Design students (RCA) with primary school children in London as a means of co-designing a location-based VR experience. The ideas from the workshop were developed into a VR experience that crossed physical and virtual spaces and was disseminated at the V&A Museum of Childhood Festival, Summer 2019. 
URL https://ukjapanvr.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/story-worlds/
 
Description Collaboration with RCUK-funded project 'Playing tjhe Archive' 
Organisation University College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Development of a location-based VR experience for children to disseminate some of the findings of UCL's'Playing the Archive' study (https://playingthearchive.net/) while at the same time putting into practice some of the findings of this network.
Collaborator Contribution Provided access to primary school aged children who were part of the Playing the Archive study to be research participants in design-based workshops to include children in the design of the VR experience. This allowed the opportunity to test the 'Story-Worlding' methodology developed during the network with children. The partner also provided a financial contribution that paid for materials and time for the VR experience to be built. They also provided time to support the development of the project through documentation and critical reflection on the developed experience.
Impact Output: Location-based VR experience situated at the V&A Museum of Childhood Play Festival
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with V&A to produce a VR prototype for their Festival of Play 
Organisation Victoria and Albert Museum
Department V&A Museum of Childhood
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Produced a location-based VR experience for the V&A Museum of Childhood Festival of Play. Undertook design-based workshops with children in an inner-city primary school to include children in the design of the prototype. To do so, we used a 'Story-worlding' methodology developed by the network.
Collaborator Contribution Hosted the VR prototype, documented it with a professional photographer, advertised it and provided time to support the development of the prototype through constructive feedback, as well as with the install at the Festival.
Impact Output: Development of a location-based VR experience for children. Disseminated at the V&A Museum of Childhood Play Festival, 2019. The collaboration was multidisciplinary, including: Postgraduate design students Academics from design, education and science Museum Industry partners Primary School children Further details are listed under the artefacts section of this portal.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Designing Play for Disasters 
Organisation The Pokemon Company
Country Japan 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution This is a newly formed collaboration between Yamada-Rice (PI) and the Pokemon Company, Japan to look into developing play for disaster preparedness.
Collaborator Contribution They will provide the context for the research based on work taking place in post-disaster sites in Japan with the Pokemon with You branch of the Pokemon Company.
Impact There are no outputs to report yet, other than work in progress for a follow-on research funding bid.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Hospital play 
Organisation Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Hospitals 
PI Contribution Potter, J. (Co-I) has had a number of meetings with GOSH regarding regarding the development of a follow-on research bid looking at location-based VR as potential to help hospitalised children receive information about their treatment. At present the contributions of the research team were in time to attend these meetings.
Collaborator Contribution At present the contributions GOSH partners was the giving of their time to developing a research funding bid on the above topic.
Impact Development of research funding bid.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Dare, E., Yamada-Rice, D., Rodrigues, D., Main, A. Potter, J. Presentation to UT- Virtual students, University of Tokyo 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Talk at Tokyo University during knowledge exchange trip to Japan about our individual research in relation to VR, as well as about the Japan-UK network activities and emerging findings.
As a follow up one UT-Virtual student came to visit the RCA in London and hear more about the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Eleanor Dare (Co- Investigator) gave a presentation on the research for the PGR seminar series 'Methods of Intent'. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was a presentation by Dare, E. (Co-I) for the 'Methods of Intent' seminar series is a monthly event provided for doctoral students in the School of Communication at the Royal College of Art.

Description:VR: immersive ideologies: Researching and writing about virtual technologies inside and outside the headset.
Date: Tuesday, 15 October 2019ยท4:30 - 6:30pm,
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Industry conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Yamada-Rice, D. (PI) was part of a panel at the Children's Media Conference entitled Media Medicine. Her involvement was to describe how location-based VR can be used to disseminate medical information or in medical contexts. The ideas shared were from two funded projects of which this was one one of them.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.thechildrensmediaconference.com/sessions/media-medicine/
 
Description Invited Keynote presentation at International Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Yamada-Rice, D. (PI) gave an invited keynote presentation for the Clash of Realities conference in Cologne. The conference attracts a large international audience of academics and digital media industry representations. The keynote was entitled 'Children and Virtual Reality'. Requests were received from industry representatives for further information and possible collaboration, e.g. Playmobil. It has also led to another Keynote invitation to take place in Istanbul Summer 2020. Further, the organisers of the conference have requested that a write up from the project be submitted to a book they are due to publish later this year. The chapter will be published in German allowing the details to reach a different audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://clashofrealities.com/theme/speaker/dylan-yamada-rice/
 
Description Invited presentation for NHS Trust 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Yamada-Rice, D. (PI) gave an invited presentation on VR in children's hospitals at the 'Caring Together Summit'. This was a conference for medical and other professional staff at the Sheffield Children's Hospital NHS Trust.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Love, S. (Co-I) Research presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This refers to a talk given by Steve Love (Co-I) at GSA. The talk was entitled "Research in the School of Simulation and Visualisation at The Glasgow school of Art"
It was attended by about 20 researchers, including academic staff and PHD students from design Informatics at Edinburgh University. Presented on 28.3.19.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation on the research for MA Information Experience Design students at Royal College of Art 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The presentation was entitled' The Psychology and Magic of VR' which was co-presented with Prof. Mark Mon Williams from the University of Leeds. He presented his work in the area of VR and psychology to show why Wave 3 of VR has become the most successful to date. Yamada-Rice (PI) then presented on the network research and emerging findings that Wave 3 VR supports a desire for virtual more-than-human experiences which can me theorised as an extension to histories of magic and spiritualism.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020