THE TECHNOLOGY EXPLORERS: Older Adults Meeting and Reminiscing in Social Virtual Reality

Monday 13 May, 1:30pm | FREE to attend Robert Hardy Building Teaching Room 2

Virtual reality (VR) technology is an emerging technology that is increasingly being deployed for use with older adults. The technology is particularly attractive to residential aged care providers who are employing VR systems as diversion therapy tools and as a means of providing stimulation to residents living with dementia.

In this presentation, Steven Baker, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne in Australia, will discuss the Ageing and Avatars project, a three-year project that sought to expand the possibilities for the use of VR with older adults. During this project, 25 older adults (aged 70+) who lived in both metropolitan and regional areas, collaborated with the research team to explore the potential for VR to become a tool for meaningful social interaction. The participants, who we refer to as the Technology Explorers, trialled VR gear, designed avatars (virtual self-representations), and co-designed a social VR application that allowed them to meet and reminisce about their school experiences. Steven will discuss the three phases of the project and will speak about the recently completed user study that marked its culmination. This talk should be of interest to anyone interested in VR and its application as a tool to support older adult wellbeing.

Dr Steven Baker Steven is a Research Fellow at the Microsoft Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His research interests centre around how technology can be used to support human flourishing and benefit disadvantaged groups. Steven’s doctoral research centred on the use of tablet computers by rural older adults who had histories of homelessness, social isolation and complex needs.

This interest in older adults and technology extends to his work on the Ageing and Avatars ARC Discovery project. This project focusses on how social virtual reality and avatars can enable older adults to participate in meaningful social activities. In addition to his work with older adults, Steven is also involved in projects assessing the potential of virtual reality to support people living with a disability, assessing assistive technology use by blind and visually impaired adults in the workplace, and the use of echolocation to navigate virtual worlds. Steven combines his academic interest in human-computer interaction (HCI) with professional experience as a social worker.

For more information on the Technology Explorers seminar please email Dr Nicki Walsh

5th April 2019

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