Learning to become independent is a crucial developmental milestone for all children, but for children with an intellectual disability, mastering everyday activities can be an uphill battle. A new virtual reality (VR) program, called Now, was developed by the University of South Australia to help children overcome some of these difficulties, enabling them to build and practise essential life skills in a safe and controlled environment.
It’s an innovative use of virtual reality platforms that could help thousands of Australian children. In Australia, around one in 22 children has an intellectual disability, representing 4.5 per cent of the Australian population.
Funded by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation, the VR program aims to build capacity and self-confidence around life skills in children with an intellectual disability, enabling them to become more confident and self-sufficient.
Project lead and Early Career Researcher, UniSA’s Stefan Michalski, says the VR program hopes to provide a more effective teaching platform for children with intellectual disabilities to practice key skills.
Whether it’s getting dressed, learning how to cook, or simply sorting the daily trash, routine skills are an essential part of everyday life, Michalski stated. However, for children with an intellectual disability, these tasks can be challenging, so finding ways for them to practice and become more independent is key.
The virtual reality program will let a child practice a range of life skills in a safe and controlled environment so that they gain familiarity with the task and can build their capabilities to undertake it.
The beauty of VR is that it can be modified to complement an individual’s learning style. Plus, it easily enables repeat scenarios so a child can practice a task until they are comfortable with their abilities. Importantly, being able to practice in an online space means that children can safely experience and practice key skills without danger, which makes it much easier to teach higher-risk activities such as working with hot surfaces in a kitchen.
The UniSA project will test the VR training among children aged between 12 and 17, assessing the validity and effectiveness VR as compared with traditional rote learning models.
Michalski says the research hopes to provide new and innovative solutions for children with intellectual disabilities. Mastering life skills undoubtedly builds confidence and self-esteem and can help a child make appropriate decisions in social, vocational and personal scenarios, he noted.
Life is a learning process. And while learning skills via a virtual environment is a novel approach, it’s one that the team feels will make a big difference to the many children that need extra support.
UniSA’s full project team includes Stefan Michalski, Dr Tobias Loetscher, Associate Professor Caroline Ellison, Professor Mark Billinghurst, Dr Ancret Szpak, and Dr Gun Lee.
Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation (CRF) fosters the advancement of Early Career Researchers in South Australia; Stefan Michalski is one of three Early Career Researchers who successfully received a 2021 Channel 7 CRF grant. The Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation grants around $1.5 million a year to support quality research within the universities, research institutes, health services and other organisations of South Australia.
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and a US-based engineering company signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish the Centre for Humanistic Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CHAiR) for translational research with the goal of advancing the well-being of humanity.
The partnership aims to integrate the university’s interdisciplinary research capabilities and the company’s well-known humanoid robotics platform to explore technology applications. Sophia, the company’s most advanced human-like robot, will work with PolyU researchers to enhance the contribution of AI and robotic technology for social and commercial benefits.
Research into and applications of AI and robotics are essential to the advancement of industry. As an interdisciplinary research and development centre, CHAiR brings cross-faculty collaborations in research fields such as AI, the internet of things (IoT), neuroscience, design, computer science, mechanical engineering, material science, healthcare, and the humanities.
In collaboration with the company, CHAiR supports innovation and entrepreneurship in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. The Dean of Graduate School, Chair Professor of Distributed and Mobile Computing, and Otto Poon Charitable Foundation Professor in Data Science will serve as the principal investigator and administrative director of CHAiR. He will also serve alongside the CEO and Founder of the company as a co-chair of the Centre’s steering committee.
The MoU was signed by the Vice President (Research and Innovation) of PolyU and the CEO and Founder of the company. It was Witnessed by the President of PolyU and the Executive Director of the firm.
During the signing ceremony, Sophia made conversation with the guests. She said, “I look forward to learning many new skills and abilities. With your help, maybe I can learn how to be a nurse, a teacher, a concierge, a librarian. You can teach me how to be a better companion, a more skilful artist, a funnier entertainer.”
Meanwhile, the company’s CEO and Founder noted that the new centre is perfectly positioned to refine and improve the performance of Sophia-class robots in ways that promote the growth of a new service robot industry. As soon as the industry begins expanding, investment in improved hardware, software and manufacturing technologies will as well, he noted.
The President of PolyU noted that academia-industry collaboration is one of the most productive mechanisms for creating and implementing innovations. There is tremendous untapped potential for humanistic social robots. Let us aspire that CHAiR will be a major catalyst for the onset of the age of humanistic robots.
The Dean of Graduate School, Chair Professor of Distributed and Mobile Computing, who is also Director of the Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence of Things (RIAIoT), said the Institute has been working on practical solutions to key challenges in advanced AIoT technologies and applications.
He noted that the natural evolution for RIAIoT is to partner with the engineering firm to address increasingly ambitious opportunities in humanistic AI and social robotics. CHAiR will play a unique and key role to combine the firm’s knowledge with world-class academics here at PolyU.
The engineering company is an AI and robotics company dedicated to creating socially intelligent machines that enrich the quality of our lives. Sophia is the world’s first robot citizen and the first robot Innovation Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme.
India aims to become a hub for drone technology for which it will require at least 100,000 drone pilots by next year, according to the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Anurag Singh Thakur.
Thakur highlighted several ways drone technology is being applied in India, including the SWAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) Scheme, which uses drones to survey land and houses. The scheme provides citizens in far-flung areas the right to document their residential properties so that they can use their property for economic purposes. Drones are also being used in the agricultural sector to sprinkle pesticides and nano fertilizers under the Kisan Drone Yatra project. 100 Kisan drones have been sent to villages across the country to spray pesticides. The drone technology could add US$ 3 billion to the agriculture sector in 2023, benefitting 100 million farmers, Thakur explained.
During the pandemic, the city of Varanasi used drones to spray sanitiser around COVID-19-sensitive parts under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM). The drones were specially airlifted from Chennai through cargo flights with permission from the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA). The drone team would first visit the area planned to be sanitised for the day, make a quick visual survey of the terrain, buildings, and surroundings, and then chalk out a flight path to be followed by the drone.
The drone was filled with a chemical solution (consisting of 1% sodium hypochlorite), calibrated, and then set to fly. The drones were flown using a remote-control device by experienced drone pilots in the planned flight path.
Similarly, last year, MoCA allowed the state government of Telangana to conduct experimental beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone flights to deliver COVID-19 vaccines. Authorities had exempted the state from Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) rules. This was part of India’s constant endeavour to enhance the scope of drone usage in the country and assist the nation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, as OpenGov Asia reported. The BVLOS trials helped create the regulatory framework for drone deliveries and other major applications.
In 2021, MoCA and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) granted a conditional exemption to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to deploy drones to live stream the India Cricket Season.
In March this year, the National Mineral Development Corporation Ltd (NMDC), the country’s biggest iron ore public sector enterprise, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur (IIT-Kharagpur) for drone-based mineral excavation. The two organisations have developed software, products, methods, and algorithms for mineral exploration using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) as well as capacity-building training programmes on mining technology.
In May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India’s biggest drone festival – the Bharat Drone Mahotsav 2022, where he interacted with Kisan drone pilots. There are currently over 200 drone start-ups operating in the country. The figure will increase over the next few years, generating thousands of new job opportunities for the youth. The government has said that employment opportunities worth IN 60 billion (US$ 727 million) a year could be created in the drone sector.
Thakur noted that drone technology has come to play an important role in defence, agriculture, health, and entertainment. The government strives to further boost the demand for cutting-edge drone technology and services through a three-pronged approach:
- Implementing effective policies, for example, the Drone Rules, 2021
- Providing incentives through PLI for drones and drone components
- Creating indigenous demand, which will be overseen by 12 central ministries
For inbound travellers’ arrival details and health declaration checklist, eTravel is a new contact tracking platform that replaces the One Health Pass and e-Arrival card in the Philippines. E-travel can now be accessed at the official website.
The new system is easy to use as travellers coming in can sign up with their personal profiles, travel information, and health declarations. When finishing this step, the user will get a QR code that is unique to them. This service is free, but people need to sign up at least 3 days before they arrive in the Philippines.
E-travel is developed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and is a joint initiative with the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), Bureau of Customs (BOC), Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
The interconnection, data-sharing, and synergy of all the many departments that are divided into several silos will now be combined into a single system that will be looking at a single point in time, according to DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy. Hence, it will make it easier for the people to interact with the government at the same time.
Meanwhile, to promote a unified government approach to E-Governance, the DICT’s Office of the Undersecretary for E-Government (OUEG) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with partner government entities.
The Landbank of the Philippines, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Government Service Insurance System, the Social Security System, and the Mindanao Development Authority are all partners in this endeavour.
Through its efforts to digitally change government processes and government agencies, the DICT hopes to improve data standards and data governance, allowing for data harmonisation and coordination throughout the government.
The effort includes the creation, deployment, and integration of systems for Department flagship programmes such E-Local Government Units (ELGU), E-Government Applications (EGovApp), E-Govpay, E-Travel, and E-Cloud.
The MoU establishes the partner agencies as key players in the pursuit of digital transformation and e-governance. Since DICT considers harmony to be the foundation of clarity. Therefore, the goals of these initiatives are twofold: to construct a government that is enabled by ICT and to capacitate its development.
Furthermore, through the Career Certificates Scholarship Programme, a multinational technology business will provide free professional training to Filipinos. This programme is presently being provided by the DICT through the ICT Literacy and Competency Development Bureau (ILCDB).
With the help of this career certificates programme, appropriate skill development and tooling are now easier to obtain. By closing the digital divide and widening chances for Filipinos, the DICT seeks to expand ICT opportunities.
The agency urges Filipinos to apply for the scholarship and benefit from the free professional training created by one of the biggest software companies in the world.
The course can award credentials in IT support, project management, user experience (UX) design, and data analytics. Through this programme, Filipinos can gain new skills and connect with top employers while preparing for a new career in the rapidly expanding ICT industry.
The process is also practical for online education. Participants must be at least 18 years old, residents of and citizens of the Philippines, and capable of finishing the online course using their own device or gadget to be eligible to apply for the scholarship.