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zoom From left to right, Diana Calatayud, Alfredo Pina, Benoit Bossavit, Miriam Lizasoand Mikel Ostiz.

From left to right, Diana Calatayud, Alfredo Pina, Benoit Bossavit, Miriam Lizasoand Mikel Ostiz.

Researchers from the Department of Mathematical and Computational Engineering at the Public University of Navarre (UPNA) have developed various virtual reality applications aimed at enhancing the cognitive and motor skills of non-typically developing children. The software is used by schoolchildren using natural interaction and is currently being tested experimentally in the Andrés Muñoz special education public-sector school in Pamplona.

Painting with different parts of the body, carrying out routines like cleaning one’s teeth, doing puzzles or identifying the sounds of musical instruments are some of the activities that can be undertaken with these applications, which have been developed by a multidisciplinary team in which UPNA researchers, professionals from Anfas (the Navarre Association in favour of people with intellectual disability) of and experts from the Andrés Muñoz school have participated.

The research, led by Alfredo Pina, of the Department of Mathematical and Computational Engineering, is part of a European project for the development and application of virtual reality technologies, augmented reality and advanced interaction. The Alfa Gaviota project (Academic Groups for Visualisation Guided by Appropriate Technologies) is made up of eight Latin American universities and four European ones and has a budget of 1.2 million euros.

zoom Developed software

Developed software

Virtual reality is a technological system employed in computers and other devices to reproduce the appearance of reality. Its application was initially focused on videogames, although it is currently used in fields such as medicine, for flight simulations or, as in this case, in the education sector. The software created at the UPNA is used via a kinect device, a low-cost Xbox videogames sensor enabling creating own applications.

This sensor recognises the skeletal structure of a person and projects its image on a screen on which elements of virtual reality have been previously created and the application can interact with these. A part of the body, generally one of the two hands, acts as a computer mouse, thus enabling natural interaction with the screen.

The software was developed in coordination with the educational project of the state-sector Andrés Muñoz school and taking into account the cognitive and motor skills of its pupils. Moreover, all this work has taken shape as a PhD thesis drawn up by Benoit Bossavit, a researcher within the remit of the UPNA scholarship training scheme.

The educational applications are being tested experimentally by pupils at the school. In concrete, one of the activities involves the visual arts, enabling children to paint with different parts of the body. This application can be used simultaneously by two people. Washing ones teeth or putting ones glasses are two everyday routines that these applications convert into a game through a system of markers incorporated into real objects that the children have to use.

Choosing geometric shapes for completing jigsaw puzzles, the application whereby music can be composed and the sound of instruments distinguished are other tools being used by the Andrés Muñoz school. The final goal is to create a catalogue of applications incorporated into the school’s educational project, and indicated in which are both the benefits obtained in pupil development as well as the manner in which they should be used.

* Elhuyar translation, published in