The team at Walton Institute and WIT were proud to donate virtual reality (VR) headsets and dedicated training to the Tramore and Waterford Arch Club. The Arch Club is a social club for people of all ages with an intellectual disability. It is a safe space for them to develop their social and interpersonal skills and to learn real world skills.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers in the Walton Institute developed CoronaVRus, a free to download virtual reality application aimed at autistic children that can be used as an educational tool to showcase, educate and demonstrate COVID-19 safety guidelines in an intuitive manner. The project won the Knowledge Transfer Ireland Industry Impact Awards 2020 in the “People’s Choice Award” category and received a huge response from the public with over 5,000 downloads of the application.

Seeing the level of interest and engagement with this project, the team at WIT sought another way to use VR technology to make a positive impact in the local community. Dr James O’Sullivan RTTP of the WIT Technology Transfer Office said, “We recognised the potential of this technology and decided to work closely with one of our local charities to demonstrate our commitment to social wellbeing.”

The Tramore & Waterford Arch Club is run by volunteers and is exclusively funded from donations and fund-raising activities. VR headsets would provide a valuable learning tool for club members and their families. “Inclusivity, integration and friendship are the principal driving forces within our club. We have 60 members in total who are a very interesting, active and fun group varying in age from 17 to 63 years who will benefit greatly from this generous donation from WIT," explained Marie Cullen, Executive Committee Member of the Arch Club.

Club committee members will receive full training from Walton Institute’s Ryan McCloskey, software developer and part of the Mobile Ecosystem and Pervasive Sensing Unit, to ensure they can maximize the systems features and fully immersive experiences.