Recent work by two South Side students show promise for an application which will aid Occupational Therapy providers and clients.

The students, Dillon Hall of Damascus and Blake Battles of Greenbrier, worked in the South Side EAST program to develop a virtual reality game to refine and develop motor skills.

The from-scratch developed game has the user put on the virtual reality (VR) headset and interact with a ball, first by grabbing and squeezing it in the headset-wearer’s virtual hand. As skills develop the user then interacts with the environment inside the VR world by doing such things as hitting the ball with a racket, or aiming the ball at a nearby, and then more distant, target. The basis for moving from one task to the next, higher-level, task is based on the user’s increasing visual motor integration as eye, hand and mind coordination develop.

Hall and Battles began development of the game last fall, they said. Once they had identified a need they chose, first, a game development engine – the software program used to create the VR environment – and then writing the specifics to create a game world. They explained that the first step was learning the game engine – done through various on-line tutorials and experimentation. Then, as the game began to take shape, work with school Occupational Therapist Marcus Hutto in developing a VR environment which would benefit students.

Part of the game development was grant application by the students. In turn they were able to get grants, both from Hutto’s Occupational Therapy and from the Methodist Women, of Clinton. The grant money was used to cover the cost of software needed to develop the game.

The benefit of creating the application was that pediatric occupational therapy clients would be drawn to playing a VR “game” which would give them the opportunity to develop critical visual motor integration, they said.

Hall and Battles worked with Hutto throughout the game development in order to create a VR world useful to the occupational therapy mission.

The plan is to move the game into Beta testing – the first step in out-of-the-lab testing – next semester. From there the plan was to create a statistical data analysis by December 2019 in order to verify the game’s utility, Hutto said.

Despite the planned beta rollout, Hall and Battles continue to work to further develop the game. One plan they outlined was that a user would travel a VR “path.” Along the path they would be given various motor skills tasks. As each task was accomplished the user could travel further down the path, to more complex tasks.

Hall and Battles plan to continue development of the game into their senior year at South Side.

Julie Nelson said the students working to reconcile a problem they identified was typical of the EAST program, now in its second year at South Side. Students in the program are expected to solve problems in the school, community, or even the world as their assignment, she said.