On 25 April, Birmingham Professor Bob Stone presented a group of Brownies and Guides with the world’s first Girlguiding badge for achievement in Virtual Reality, at a special presentation ceremony held at the headquarters of the Saltash District Brownies and Guides in Cornwall.
Professor Stone, who leads the University of Birmingham's Human Interface Technologies Team, awarded the badges in recognition of the positive way the girls had explored Virtual and Augmented Reality applications at an earlier workshop he and his team had delivered last September. After taking part in the workshop, the girls were also asked to design a poster showing their vision of a virtual world they would like to explore in the future.
Professor Stone said: “The original event in September was a huge success, and allowed girls of all ages not only to experience technologies they may never have seen in their lives, but to show them how they might contribute as scientists and technologists of the future. I think that the range of VR demos we brought down with us – from exploring caves and discovering historic fossils to seeing how we used drones to create 3D models of Dartmoor heritage – really captured their imaginations.”
Professor Stone, who personally designed the new VR badges, continued: “A number of posters we received actually gave us inspiration for an important new project we’re currently working on. It takes the form of a “Virtual Garden” with quests and challenges to help distract children suffering with chronic pain. Some of the current developments include colourful flowers, cartoon insect characters and being able to climb into a minisub and dive into an ornamental lake with Koi Carp, were definitely inspired by the girls’ imaginations.”
Brownies and Guides are awarded badges to celebrate their participation in undertaking different tasks or learning new skills. With the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts recently investigating new ways to encourage young women to develop skills to support early careers in science, engineering and technology, it was agreed that providing a range of VR experiences to the units at Saltash, and encouraging the girls to think about what their ideal future VR world might look like, was a very positive introduction to an important and evolving technology.
Launched in 2003 by Professor Bob Stone, the Human Interface Technologies Team (HIT) has pioneered the development, evaluation and uptake of Virtual Reality and telepresence/telerobotic technologies across heritage, military, healthcare and aerospace sectors.