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Can virtual reality help us to build a safe city for children?

A virtual reality tool aimed at improving urban safety for young children allows users to see neighborhoods through the eyes of a three-year-old.

The 'Proximity of Care Design Guide,' led by the Leer Foundation and Arup, builds on the current virtual reality initiative 'Urban95.'

COVID-19 has pushed another 150 million children into poverty, with 35 percent of children living in refugee camps or slums spending their time outside.

In less developed neighborhoods, more child-friendly spaces and play areas could make communities safer and more fun for these children.

Source- Global Banking & Finance Review

The Proximity of Care Design Guide was introduced by global design company Arup and the Bernard van Leer Foundation, which focuses on childhood growth, and brings together practical tools and examples for urban planners and governments.

The guide builds on the foundation's and Arup's virtual reality (VR) initiative Urban95, which immerses users in a fictional urban environment as if they were 95 cm (37 inches) tall.

VR through the eyes of toddlers Source-Thomsons Reuters Foundation News

Users and planners all over the world can see how a child travels around a city thanks to actors, real sounds, and an artificial intelligence-controlled traffic system.

The Bernard van Leer Foundation's executive director, Cecilia Vaca Jones, said, "When the Prime Minister of Ivory Coast used the VR, he said, "I never realized how dangerous cars can be!" And it changed the way he saw the city,"

According to UNICEF, the coronavirus pandemic has pushed 150 million more children into poverty, limiting their access to schooling, healthcare, sanitation, nutrition, and housing.

Poverty also forces more children into jobs, out of school, and into informal settlements, limiting their time and space to play safely and resulting in a "silent emergency," according to Arup.

"Cities have a big role to play . . . we can use the built environment as an informal opportunity for learning for children," said Sara Candiracci, an associate director in Arup's International Development group.

According to research from University College London, children living in refugee camps or slums spend on average 35 percent of their time playing around because their homes are overcrowded, according to a study published by Arup last year.

"Research shows that play is definitely important to help build the social, emotional and physical skills that children need for optimal development," Candiracci explained to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
She said, citing colorful sidewalks in Santiago and community gardens in Shanghai as examples , "We are interested in play beyond the playground - the whole city can become a playground,"

Fieldwork study from refugee and informal settlements in Kenya, Lebanon, Jordan, and South Africa was used to compile the guidelines.

Although, according to Candiracci, the methods are important for all cities because of the global economic divide exacerbated by COVID-19.

The guidelines can be read on a mobile phone or downloaded for ease of use, and range from a case study of a community-built walking route in Lima, Peru, to encouraging developers to consider communal improvements including marketplaces and water points.

"In every country around the world there are more and less developed neighbourhoods, so solutions and lessons can work in any place," agreed Vaca Jones.

According to the project organisers, the new guide, which highlights success stories and ideas for developing child-friendly spaces, was developed with policymakers, urban designers, architects, and engineers in mind.

People are still ignored in city planning, according to Vaca Jones.

"Bringing in the perspective of a baby or a toddler makes people more sensitive to the missing elements we all need," Vaca said.


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Source- World Economic Forum