Ukraine is one of the countries that suffered from mines the most. Unexploded ordnance and explosives are taking more and more lives as a result of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. According to UNICEF, one in three children injured here suffered from mines and explosive remnants of war. In the spring of 2020, "IT Association of Ukraine" and UNICEF signed a memorandum of cooperation. As part of the Memorandum, they decided to develop an interactive VR product, called Mine Awareness VR. It will help inform children about mine danger in Eastern Ukraine. WeAR Studio team is heading the development of this product.
Virtual Reality occupies an interesting place among other technologies. Millions of users are delighted to see the development of artificial intelligence and new media, while VR remains the interest of a narrow circle of professionals. And as myths about artificial intelligence debunk and new media emerge and die, virtual reality helmets are becoming more mobile and applications more diverse.
VR opens up endless possibilities for safe distance learning and work, which is a unique feature of the technology. Therefore, when UNICEF asked us to develop a tool to help their mine-safety tours to schools in Eastern Ukraine, we immediately offered virtual reality solution. But even then, we didn’t know how big and special this project would become.
Prior to this project, WeAR Studio had experience in developing training simulators - for example, engine repair and diagnostics of engine rooms inside boats. Although conceptually the task itself (Teach people specific tasks/ instructions) is similar, mine risks hide as many nuances as an open field in the East can hide anti-tank shells. In addition, we had to take into account that both children and adults will have to interact with this simulator, and the approach to them should be appropriate.
We started with a study of the audiences and the dangers that lie in the fields and roadsides of Eastern Ukraine. UNICEF's experts shared their previous experience interacting with children and told about the types of explosives that can be found. A couple of quality interviews - and the general vision of the simulator is ready.
Since this virtual experience is likely to be their first, we need to be sure that it will be easy for both children and adults to perceive and learn. So we decided to combine 360 video spheres with 3D spaces that shift throughout the plot. First, the user finds himself in the middle of photometry of his native land with the explanation of the coming task, and then transferred to an interactive copy of the space with which he can begin the learning.
The video of the sphere was shot in the conflict zone by an experienced military journalist. To enhance the feeling of immersion in cyberspace, all shots were taken twice - from the position of the eyes of an adult and a child 7 years old.
Safety of children and adults - issues and solutions
Parents and children are equally exposed to danger, but for different reasons. Children like to lift everything from the ground, and adults… the same, but to sell on scrap metal. Our task was to explain that it is dangerous - in virtual space. How would we do it?
Throughout the 10-minute simulation, users immerse themselves into homecoming story. Our heroes get acquainted with the signs of danger, get to know the dangerous areas and learn to recognize unknown objects on the roads - and bypass them. The trip is accompanied by a voice companion that gives hints along the way; the children's version of the application has cartoonish graphics, and the helping voice is actually presented by the hero of the super team, which leads the way.
The presentation, tips and visual design of the children's and adult space are different in order to accurately select the necessary words for different audiences. UNICEF's specialists help us find the most fitting wording.
Looking ahead - the value of the application for the world
Mine danger, unfortunately, is a common problem in many countries where armed conflicts are taking place. But we hope that by creating the first application of this kind, its analogues will become a new standard for training personal safety. Virtual simulation is the safest way to talk about the most dangerous places, and to teach children useful habits from an early age. I want to believe that the need for similar projects will disappear one day. And it's good that niche technologies like VR can save the lives of those millions who watch the development of artificial intelligence and new media.
Source: Na chasi