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Virtual reality technology trial takes off

A new virtual reality technology targeting older Australian drivers has kicked into its next gear following the commencement of projects trial in New South Wales.

New virtual reality technology is helping older Australian drivers (Source: Shutterstock)
New virtual reality technology is helping older Australian drivers (Source: Shutterstock)

The project called Hector VR, the Virtual Reality Driving Simulator for Older Drivers, developed by aged care provider McLean Care in partnership with Deakin University’s School of Engineering and funded by a Federal Government grant scheme, uses the virtual reality technology to check the driving skills of senior Australians to improve road safety.

The trial, which is confined to the Invernell district of New South Wales, is focusing on people between 70 and 80 years of age.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt says the technology is a “groundbreaking innovation” that enables senior Australians to “live longer, better lives”.

“Hector VR supports people to maintain their proficiency on the road and can be used to test driving skills, to help them decide if they should stay behind the wheel,” he explains.

“The thought of giving up your licence and the extra independence that comes with driving yourself can be daunting for people as they age, particularly for those in rural and regional areas.

“However, we have to make sure it is safe for them to keep driving and this technology will help with that potentially life saving decision.”

Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, has acknowledged the technology that has gone into the virtual reality project - noting the detail of the driving simulator contained in the shell of a Holden Captiva to “increase the sense of reality for drivers”.

“Sensors are also installed which measure the driver’s reaction times and heart rate to assess their responses to a variety of situations that can arise when driving,” he says.

“In addition to helping older drivers maintain and test their skills, Hector VR is designed to help those with medical conditions, such as dementia and who can no longer drive, to re-live the driving experience.

“The virtual driving scenarios are modelled on the township of Inverell including important local buildings, major shopping centres, retail outlets and landmarks to make the user’s experience as realistic as possible.

“The simulator includes differing road environments and realistic scenarios such as country driving and various levels of traffic.”

Minister Wyatt has congratulated McLean Care and Deakin University on “this exciting project” which he says is already attracting national and international attention.

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