TCD Researchers Collaborate with Central Remedial Clinic to Develop Virtual Dublin Game

Posted on: 28 May 2008

Researchers from the GV2 Group at  the School of Computer Science & Statistics in Trinity College Dublin have collaborated with staff and students of the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) school in  Clontarf to design a computer game based in virtual Dublin .  The game was recently launched  at the CRC and was developed as part of the  project ‘Metropolis’, a four-year project, funded by Science Foundation Ireland . The TCD researchers are creating a computer generated virtual Dublin to explore new technologies required for the future of online communication, collaboration and entertainment. This is a novel interdisciplinary project which combines research in computer graphics, engineering and cognitive neuroscience and involves TCD researchers from the  Department of Computer Science, Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering  and the  Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience. A primary goal of the project is to apply principles of human multi-sensory perception in order to create the most realistic and lifelike depiction of a virtual urban environment to date. The project will be of practical benefit to urban planning projects, the development of assistive technology for people with disabilities as well as computer games.

Many of the students of the CRC school have mobility problems and therefore spend a lot of time playing computer games together. There is an opportunity to provide game experiences that are educational and therapeutic for the students – for example, the children can plan journeys throughout the city, helping them to learn about street names and locations, public buildings, bus and train stations and providing knowledge of the city in preparation for when they are old enough to travel independently.

The aim of this outreach activity was to build a mini-game within the virtual Dublin environment where the final game-design was defined collaboratively with a participating class of students from Dublin ‘s CRC. Together with the CRC staff led by Ann Jackson, school principal and Kieran O’Callaghan, ICT resource teacher, a small team was assembled to work on the development of a driving game. CRC staff advised on the educational, therapeutic, interface and control issues, and the students supplied the game ideas.  CanDo Interactive Ltd., an Irish web-based game development company, developed the game concepts with TCD’s multisensory virtual environment providing the framework.

Professor Carol O’Sullivan, Principal Investigator on Project Metropolis, stated: “The idea for the game came from one of the students, Conor Nolan, who has attended the CRC school since he was three-years old. Conor, who was born with spina bifida, particularly enjoys driving virtual cars and motor bikes, flying aeroplanes and helicopters in computer games such as Need for Speed. When his mother contacted the team here in TCD, we thought that this would be an excellent opportunity to illustrate how interactive entertainment technology, such as that being developed in the Metropolis project, could be used for educational and therapeutic purposes. The Metropolis team has enjoyed working with the CRC management, staff and most particularly the children themselves, whose imagination, creativity and enthusiasm for the project have been an inspiration for us all”.

Kieran O’Callaghan, ICT resource teacher at the CRC, stated: “Our students have really enjoyed this project and have gained enormously from their sense of ownership in the game’s development. They are very proud of their involvement and have benefited socially from participating in the planning meetings and from the kudos attached to demonstrating the game to visitors and peers. This project has given them a very real sense of achievement and success. This has provided us all with a unique insight into the science, technology and creative processes involved in game development.”

The game is being installed as a facility for students in the CRC premises, with the support of the SFI-funded Metropolis project. The launch of the game will be celebrated by staff and students of the CRC with team members from TCD and a competition to find the student with the highest score on the game.