A virtual reality app developed by an RMIT Vietnam graduate to help children overcome their fears at bedtime has been showcased at a top Asian technology conference.
Dang Ha Thanh Vy was Vietnam’s sole representative at the 10th SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia, held in Bangkok late last year.
SIGGRAPH explores research, science, art, animation, gaming, interactivity, education and emerging technologies, with last year’s event focusing on VR, augmented reality (AR) and machine learning.
Vy’s app makes use of a new psychological treatment method called virtual reality exposure therapy, or VRET, which has been used to help people struggling with fear and anxiety, including soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.
“My project is called Room VR,” Vy, a Bachelor of Design (Digital Media) graduate, says.
“It’s a virtual reality mobile application for children who have bedtime fears of darkness, imaginary monsters or animal sounds.
“The application is meant to help them overcome the fears by exposing them to the fear through simulating a virtual bedroom.
“I came up with this idea because I want to make this type of treatment accessible to children.”
Erik Young, an RMIT lecturer who advised Vy on her project, explains the mechanics of the app.
“We built out a bedroom that would look like a child’s room in a house, and in the environment there are different types of things like monsters or characters that in the dark would appear scary or aggressive, but as soon as you shine a light on them, they become these friendly inanimate objects,” he says.
“So a monster might turn into a stuffed animal, or something like that. It’s meant to show that what we see and what is real are not the same.”
Vy, for her part, never thought she would have the opportunity to take part in SIGGRAPH.
“My lecturer advised me to try and participate, and I didn’t expect a lot because I thought this event was too big for me,” she says. “I was shocked when I got accepted.”
In fact, not only is Vy’s Room VR project the only one to have been accepted to the conference from RMIT, it was the only application to be chosen from all of Vietnam.
“There’s a lot of work here from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea,” Young says, “but we’re the only representatives from Vietnam.”
The lecturer believes this bodes well for RMIT Vietnam’s VR and AR courses.
“These are really new on a whole so we’ve tried hard to establish ourselves and build more mature projects. I think we’re at the start of some really interesting things,” he says.
RMIT Vietnam recently opened a state-of-the-art Mixed Reality Studio where students can research and develop VR, AR and MR projects. The University also hosted a SIGGRAPH virtual reality event at its Saigon South campus on 3 December.
Meanwhile Vy – who graduated with distinction in 2017 – is excited to see what possibilities this field holds.
“It’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of energy to learn and do it at the same time,” she says.
“But I think this kind of technology has a very promising future because it’s not about design or traditional technology; here people can see designs in a different way.”
Story: Michael Tatarski, Gosia Kaszubska