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MSU Team Making VR App for Helping Individuals Identify Unconscious Biases

Educational institutions across the United States are laying focus on the prospects of enhancing diversity and equity in society, in light of the unfortunate George Floyd incident last year.

Students can access videos and online classes but also have several other options that have just been released. A research team from the Michigan State University is relying on virtual reality technology to help individuals identify unconscious biases.

Ayodele Dare, an MSU diversity, equity, and inclusion office employee, has been evaluating a new virtual reality-based application called A Mile in My Shoes. The application is now available to users on mobile and desktop devices through the Oculus App.

The Oculus App can be used in combination with an all-in-one VR headset that comes with controllers and virtual reality goggles.

Dare talked about how it feels to have the VR goggles on, saying that a wearer can don them to observe their surroundings and perform inspections of their locations.

You learn to identify unconscious biases

The VR programme enables users to pick a computer-generated character to participate. The in-game characters showcase the different student identities and backgrounds. Participants are able to experience a range of real-life scenarios right from their classroom.

Dare himself tried being a part of the simulation experience, where he was a person in a wheelchair.

He spoke about his experience saying that he has been late to class repeatedly due to having to go around the building to reach the room. As part of the virtual reality simulation, a faculty member enters a classroom and reads a prompt for the participant. The professor in the classroom then gets options regarding how to react to a participant who has entered the class late.

Quentin Tyler, Associate Dean and Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, also shared his views about the development. He says that professors at educational institutions

need to question themselves regarding how to handle certain situations and show understanding.

Why and how did the idea come up?

Tyler has been part of the team that has been working on application development for the last couple of years.

Tyler started working on the application when he came across a school exhibit. According to him, the idea came to him when he discovered a virtual reality exhibit by Dr. Nubani.

Linda Nubani, MSU assistant professor of interior design, and Program Coordinator of the Crime Prevention through Environmental Design Program was a key part of the virtual reality project. She is a contributor with Nubani and has helped to develop the app.

According to Tyler, his objective was to develop an experience where all parties including staff, students, and faculty can share ways and learn how to handle their unconscious biases.

The objective is to find ways to drive up inclusivity across the campuses of educational institutions.

Ayodele Dare is optimistic that the application features can bring about positive changes for underrepresented student groups at campuses, as the application updates. It is expected to roll out to MSU college departments with aspirations for wider launches in the future.

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