We’ve just started the first participatory part of our project, which is really exciting. Once the first iteration of the game was ready, we booked in sessions at five local schools to go along and get the input of our “end users” (children aged 7-9) on the game so far. We’ve run sessions at three schools so far, and the feedback has been very interesting and useful.
The sessions have been facilitated by Dr Catherine Purcell, the Principal Investigator, who is a psychologist with lots of experience of running participatory research projects like this one. That’s particularly important, because it’s quite a skill to draw out relevant and constructive information from a group and make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.
The children (whose parents had already signed consent forms to let them take part) were divided into groups of 5-10, and able to play the game on our tablets. This iteration of the game is not fully developed, but it gives a good representation of what the final gameplay will be like: the children use the tablet like a magic portal and have to navigate to a school in the virtual city by crossing roads as safely as possible. After the children played the game, Catherine asked for their feedback on various elements of the game. Where possible, one of the members of our team who is involved in game development went along too, to help make sure that the technological aspects of the discussion were covered and to answer techy questions.
The children have been very eager to help, and have given us some excellent feedback to work with. Some of the things they’ve asked for were already in development for the second iteration of the game, such as harder levels and a points system, but it’s good to know more specifically what the children want. Some of their suggestions are things we hadn’t yet considered, like having a pause button and adding an underpass/subway, which are becoming more common and are of course a safe road crossing place.
One thing we were particularly pleased about was that the children had absolutely no difficulty in understanding how to play the game. This level of intuitiveness is a good sign for us, as we want this game to be play-able and enjoyable for children, as well as teaching them safe road crossing behaviour.
To avoid a player feeling lost and not knowing where to go, the game will feature a level map. The map is displayed once the player points the device towards the floor. The exact details of the map’s interactivity abilities are not available at this point, however, while at the map screen, the player might be able to change some settings on-the-fly.
The Main Menu that is currently implemented into the game is mostly a placeholder and it will be replaced/improved with the functionality for logging into a user’s account.
Artificial Intelligence for Traffic
AI required a lot of planning and is still a work in progress, however, it is nearly finished. The traffic system is supposed to control all the vehicles in the game as well as traffic lights. Vehicles are intended to react to each other as well as to traffic lights and traffic signs. Naturally, a single vehicle has to be able to detect when the player is in front of it. At the moment, most of these requirements are implemented, with the exception of the traffic lights/signs. This means that a vehicle can accelerate, drive or slow down (when there is another vehicle in front or if it is about to come into a sharp corner). The vehicle can also follow the road as intended by the design of the world.
Initially, we needed to decide which game engine to use for development. The decision had to be made between Unreal Engine 4 and Unity 3D. Unreal Engine 4 was chosen for the project mainly due to its ability to develop very specific parts of the game. For example custom camera control using mobile device sensors and later custom data tracking for analytics purposes. This doesn’t mean that the Unity engine would not enable us to do the same thing, but the game programmer has more experience with Unreal Engine 4 and C++.
Controlling the Camera
We wanted to have as much control over the camera orientation as possible in order to store the orientation information for later analysis. Originally, the camera was controlled using the raw sensor data from the mobile device. However, the noise of the data that was generated was very high and it caused a jittery effect in orientating the camera. Additionally, there were inflection points in the data that would cause impulses in the camera’s orientation values. At the moment, reducing the noise and removing the inflection points are still under development and a temporary approach of using the GoogleVR plugin has been put in place which solves both of these issues at the cost of not having full control over the camera.
Player Character Movement
With the camera control in place and attached to a player’s character, the movement through the world needed to be implemented. Input for movement control has to be done through touch gestures (e.g. swipe, tap, double tap, etc.). At the moment there are two different approaches for movement locomotion:
Walk and run ability by using the user interface buttons (implemented)
Teleport to the targeted location using the safe-point system (in development)
In our next post we’ll cover other aspects of the early development of the game, including the artificial intelligence implemented for traffic.
The goal of the Road Safety Trust (RST) Project was to develop a VR-like game that would enable children to safely learn how to behave in various traffic situations as well as to allow further analysis of their ‘in game’ behavior. This would involve both the development of a socially-accessible VR-style interface, and back end analytics, to track user movement in real-time. It was constrained by the target age range, 7-11 year old, primary school children, who would be an integral part in the development of the game, and by the available hardware; generally, iPads of varying ages, and installed OSes, but also targetted at reasonable performing Android tablets. Tracking of user behaviour in game, required both high levels of security, and a way to identify student testers in a friendly, safe, but anonymous manner, so the server and user management systems had to conform to EU an dUK legislation, and ethical approval, of a high standard.
The Welcome message below, and linked blog posts were originally hosted on their own WordPress Blog, but it was little used, and now defunct. So, those elements, and additional post-mortems by some of those involved, will be archived here – the site appears to not be tracked by archive.org – and, sadly, subsequent press releases failed to mention the USW staff and students who were involved, when the PI moved to Cardiff University. Content has been rendered as close to the original as possible, including stock images for the WordPress.com hosted blogs; these images are used here under fair use, and no ownership, etc, is claimed.
The original site was created by Bojan Stankovic, initial lead programmer on the project – there were several changes of personnel during the development, but that is another story – with additional text by Amy Romijin, the psychology research assistant for most of the project, prior to her leaving. I make no claim to the text here, or on linked pages below. The game is now available for FREE 🙂 on the Apple AppStore here, ported by Sugar Creative from the original research-enabled prototype. Please NOTE that, despite the above links claiming sole creation by the listed developers, this information is, in fact, both misleading and incorrect, as the game prototype was developed at USW, not Cardiff University, and the final game was ‘ported’ only, not developed by Sugar Creative, as is claimed. Nor is any of the server-side functionality (analytics, tracking, etc) available in the final released version. Press coverage of the release of the App has consistently failed to acknowledge the originators of the project, despite being informed of the correct authorship and provenance for the game. This misrepresentation will form one of the post-mortems on the project, as a warning to the curious; these views will be mine, and those of others who were not (and are still not) acknowledged, or recognised in the innovative research for this project. These failed to be credited participants were: Bojan Stankovic (VR Controls and Vehicle AI), Jack Hodge (3D Modelling and Level Design), Stuart Lewis (Security issues), Marius Miknis (PHP/SQL and Server-Side Comms), Callum Coles (Lead, Programmer, Game Play Programming, Environment AI), Elliot Naylor (Character Design and Avatar Behaviours) and myself (Client-Side Comms, Scenario Design, and Any Other Bits That Needed Doing). Honourable mentions should go to Amy Romijin (previously mentioned), who helped bridge the gap between the Computer Scientists, and the Psychologists, and Lewis Docherty, 1st year psychology intern on the project.
Welcome! (by Amy Romijin)
Welcome to the Road Safety Trust project blog! This project was funded to create an innovative and immersive road safety education app using virtual reality technology, in which children learn to cross roads, in a virtual city environment, without leaving the safety of their classroom. The project is being delivered by an innovative partnership between the Psychology and Computing departments at the University of South Wales (USW), allowing us to combine our varied skills and experience to produce an engaging platform for children to use.
The Road Safety Trust app is being designed using a participatory approach, which involves meeting with children to get their feedback on the game design which will then be taken on board by the team and used to shape the final design of the game. Hopefully this will help us to develop a game that is engaging to children and will provide them with an innovative way to learn about road safety. The children will be sharing their ideas next month about the app in small groups with a member of the project team, including any improvements we should make that would improve their experience.
The RST project team met recently with staff members from the schools participating in the project. The event was held to launch the project and give Teachers, Head Teachers and Additional Learning Needs Coordinators an insight into the project, and to find out how we can make the project work best for them. At the meeting, the school staff had hands-on experience with the app (although it was in a very early stage of development). All of the teachers were impressed with the app and believed the app would be a useful addition to their current road safety education programme. Discussion during the meeting also covered how each school would implement the app within their current road safety programme, and the practicalities of the pupil log-in for the app. The project team put forward the concept of a “favourite three” log-in, which would involve children choosing three of their favourite things from three separate lists – favourite colour, favourite animal and favourite adjective. E.g. pink fluffy elephant. This would create not just a unique and memorable log-in for each child but also an engaging and child friendly method of logging in. The unique log-in for each child would also make the process of data collection and data analysis simpler. The school staff members at the meeting all agreed that this would be a good way for children to log in, and particularly because it would minimise the need for teacher involvement.
At the meeting, the Digital Competency Framework was discussed, in relation to how the app could fit within the framework. Digital competence is one of the 3 cross-curricular responsibilities, alongside literacy and numeracy, and it focuses on developing digital skills which can be applied across a broad spectrum of subjects. It was agreed that the app could be used as a good platform for exploring elements of digital competence. The IT team offered each school a focused session which could be used to explore aspects of digital competency (such as safety online), or could focus on the career possibilities in game design, or other topics if the school requested something specific. The psychology team also offered sessions to the schools, which would focus on attention and visual perception, and how these can affect road safety.
We’re currently still developing the app and getting ready for the focus groups within schools in the coming months! The next blog post will focus on some aspects of the game development that have been completed so far.
Introduction Initially, we needed to decide which game engine to use for development. The decision had to be made between Unreal Engine 4 and Unity 3D. Unreal Engine 4 was chosen for the project mainly due to its ability to develop very specific parts of the game. For example custom camera control using mobile device … Continue reading Programming the Game: Part 1→
Showing the Map of the Level To avoid a player feeling lost and not knowing where to go, the game will feature a level map. The map is displayed once the player points the device towards the floor. The exact details of the map’s interactivity abilities are not available at this point, however, while at … Continue reading Programming the game: Part 2→
We’ve just started the first participatory part of our project, which is really exciting. Once the first iteration of the game was ready, we booked in sessions at five local schools to go along and get the input of our “end users” (children aged 7-9) on the game so far. We’ve run sessions at three … Continue reading School sessions!→
Strictly Necessary Cookies
Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.