Saltash District Brownies and Guides earn the “first-ever” VR technology badge after helping design virtual environments for hospitalized children.
Whether it be the Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Brownies, Cub Scouts, or any of the various other outdoors programs, one aspect remains the same: it’s all about the badges. These awards are handed out based on a members level of dedication to a particular topic or activity, including everything from hiking and first-aid, to simply being a caring individual.
Over the last couple of years these catalogues have made a noticeable shift from conventional, and sometimes random (There’s even a badge for having good credit) accomplishments towards more a modernized, technology-orientated badges. Current members already have access to wide variety of fresh options such as Designing Robots, Inventor, Leap Bot Design Challenge, Entertainment Technology, and Geocacher just to name a few.
However, a group of Brownies and Girl Guides based out of Cornwall, UK, may have just taken the cake for most technologically advanced commendation after being awarded what could be the first-ever VR development badge.
Created by the University of Birmingham’s Human Interface Technologies team, the Virtual Reality Technology badge was awarded to the talented ladies from Saltash District Brownies and Guides after assisting in the development of VR environments designed to comfort children hospitalized due to various illnesses. In the end the ambitious young troop helped develop two different immersive experiences, taking users to a serene Japanese garden, or the jaw-dropping plains of the planet Mars.
“We had this idea of bringing together this fantasy garden, where we could put children who are in pain into the garden and give them quests and challenges to do,” spoke Bob Stone, head of the University of Birmingham’s Human Interface Technologies team, in an interview with BuzzFeed News. “We’ve been using some of the ideas from the girls to inspire this virtual reality garden.”
“It’s fantastic the Brownies and Guides in Saltash have been able to experience virtual reality, exploring ways to make a difference in their local community through the virtual world they helped to create,” added Sophie Hedley, a member of Girl Guiding Advocate Panel.
Stone hopes this type of immersive technology development will be not only capture the attentions of the organizations rapidly changing youth, but maintain their focus as well by providing hands-on experiences with end results young members can truly appreciate.
“After a while they can still be quite dry in terms of challenging youngsters —and it’s not just girls — to motivate them, to think ‘this is what I want to do’,” says Stone. “But if you put them into a Japanese garden, or [on Mars], just looking at their faces really tells it all,” Stone said.
“The great thing was that even the youngsters were asking intelligent questions. It wasn’t just ‘this is awesome’, it was very much ‘how does this work?'”
Although the Virtual Reality Technology badge isn’t officially recognized by the Brownies or Girl Guides organizations, Stone predicts these types of engaging and technologically relevant activities will soon begin finding their way onto the official catalogue.
Afterall, the association already has a generous variety of tech-centric badges available to current members. As VR & AR continue to infiltrate their way into the mainstream, there’s no doubt that an officially recognized VR badge will soon be on the way.
Image Credit: University of Birmingham