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VR program aims to highlight dangers of binge drinking

 

 

A virtual reality game aiming to educate teenagers on the dangers of drinking and taking drugs will be rolled out to 20 independent Catholic schools across Queensland.

ABC News reported the game will involve students attending a virtual reality party, where they are asked to have a drink, deciding how many drinks they will have, and experiencing the repercussions.

Known as Blurred Minds, with the game titled Perfect Pour, the Griffith University project will first be trailed at St Mary’s Catholic School in Cairns.

Griffith University researcher Timo Dietrich described the scenario to ABC News as “a bit crazy”.

“And they can make decisions by attending a party in the virtual world.”

Almost two years in the making, the virtual reality game aims to teach teenagers about responsible drinking and drug taking.

St Mary’s physical education teacher Matt Rattray told ABC News it was a different approach to the subject for the school.

“Obviously they’re underage so we can’t use a lot of props or real aspects,” he said.

“So it’s a lot of using images and projecting onto a screen.”

Dr Dietrich and his team will take surveys with students after each trial class.

“So, we’re looking at changes across attitudinal measures, behavioural intentions,” he said.

“If we can get them to learn how to say no or decline a drink, that’s what I really want out of this.

“A big problem is pre-loading, so before kids even go to a party they end up meeting and actually start having drinks.

“One of the decisions that they have to make is do they actually want to choose a larger amount of drinking, and we highly discourage that through this adventure.

“So, what happens then [in the game] is that they actually pass out, so they don’t even make it to the party.”

Dr Dietrich said when it came to alcohol and drug education it was difficult to use “learning by doing” techniques.

“Because you can’t really give a 15-year-old students alcohol and say hey how does that feel?

“Here’s a virtual world that allows us to actually creates these experiences virtually and actually expose them to some of these cues and risk taking scenarios, without actually the negative consequences of the real-world setting.

“I think VR gives us a tremendous opportunity to really take education to a whole new level.

“So think about geography lesson where you could take people to a different country. It doesn’t just have to be a house party.”

Mr Rattray said the trial allowed students to get an understanding of the effects of what was classified as socially acceptable or harmless drugs.

“And how small amounts, or what those limits are and really understand how it impairs coordination and response to certain areas of the body,” he said.

“Students are technologically savvy and they like to be doing things where they are engaging and anything where they’re able to do, the learning always is amplified.”

Another of the students involved in the trial, Anneliese Powell, told ABC News what she was seeing while wearing the VR headset.

“There’s lights everywhere and like beer pong. Drunk people like on the floor, all passed out,” she said.

Anneliese made the decision to have three drinks.

“The vision becomes a bit distorted and its shaking a bit,” she said.

“[It's showing] the dangers of drinking and what the effects they can have on you.”