Safety, Technology

Improving Pedestrian Safety with Virtual Reality

New technologies are being developed by David Schwebel, PH.D., a leader in accident prevention, to educate children in how to cross the street in a safe, virtual environment. With pedestrian accidents being the greatest cause of death for American children, this University of Alabama psychology professor is working on a mobile app which engages with Google Cardboard for VR safety training. The app will focus on developing the cognitive-perceptual skills of the youth in order to respond to potentially dangerous pedestrian circumstances.

David chose to use Google Cardboards interface for it’s realistic experience and mobile versatility. Thanks to grants from the National Institutes of Health, he continues to evaluate 7-8 year olds’ ability in street crossing.  The application tests and hones young children’s ability to determine the speed of a moving car, as well as knowing its distance and how much time it will take for the car to reach them. By using a virtual environment, there is no risk during this safety education.

In the virtual reality, a school with a street and crosswalk is rendered, a common and familiar situation in which children need to be safe. If the child decides it is safe and there are no oncoming cars, they are allowed to cross.

While still in progress, the study results thus far show enormous potential to improve street-crossing skills like that of adults. Most of the research participants have been able to cross streets with the level of perception similar to adults.

With Google Cardboard being extremely affordable and accessible the simulator could easily be adapted to provide safety training in schools worldwide.

Schwebel has been given the Dennis Drotar Distinguished Research Award from the Society of Pediatric Psychology, a prestigious research award among scientific peers. He serves as a University Professor on the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees has joined the Board of Scientific Counselors with the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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