Virtual Reality: More Than A Game for Autistic Individuals

What if your most daunting aspiration was to make a friend?

As a part of the Kickoff Party for Techweek, the Brain Performance Institute™ at the Center for BrainHealth®, at University of Texas at Dallas, is presenting a scientifically-based social cognitive training program with a virtual-learning platform for individuals that face social cognitive defects. Let’s go behind the scenes with the Center for BrainHealth® to see how they’re using virtual reality to change lives.

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For many on the autism spectrum, with social cognitive deficits, or who struggle socially, reading facial expressions and knowing how to respond are daily challenges that interfere with relationships and career goals. Since 2008, researchers at the Center have been investigating how Virtual Reality skills training provides realistic opportunities for social success.

A research collaboration between the Center for BrainHealth and Yale University led to a scientifically-validated, brain-enhancing therapy that is a fun, high-tech game. It has state-of-the-art graphics, real-time face tracking and personalized avatars that may also have implications for combating bullying.

“If you can succeed in virtual reality, you can do it for real. I wouldn’t have been able to interview and do what I’m doing if it weren’t for the training. I have also made real long-lasting friends. I now truly understand what friendship means and value its importance.” – Carly McCullar, social cognition research participant

How does it work?

  1. In each session, participants are immersed into a live, interactive training session that uses face-tracking technology and is designed to stimulate social-cognitive reasoning skills.
  2. In the virtual world, face-tracking technology allows users to see their own and others’ facial emotions and reactions in real time.
  3. Expert clinicians coach these participants through real-life scenarios in a video game-like environment, providing a safe place to practice social interactions in a VR school, home, playground or coffee shop.
  4. This clinician initiates non-scripted conversations that instill social cognition brain strategies to help these individuals reach their goals.

Why Do It In Virtual Reality?

The virtual reality technology used is a promising tool that provides a safe, inviting and effective platform for improving social skills, cognition, and functioning for those on the autism spectrum. (Source: Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders)

Traditional role-play therapy is limited by a lack of realism as the clinician’s appearance and location are fixed. Virtual reality allows for changeable identities and adaptable surroundings, which help create limitless scenarios. Click here to view the virtual world the Center for BrainHealth has built.

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What’s the Result?

  • According to Center for BrainHealth research, participants significantly improved the ability to recognize other’s emotions, to understand what someone is thinking or feeling, and to respond.
  • Additional research shows that individuals with autism spectrum disorder who participated in a virtual reality training program improved social cognition skills and reported better real-world relationships.
  • Neurocognitive testing showed significant gains in emotional recognition, understanding the perspective of others and the ability to problem solve.


“We live in a highly social world that puts more emphasis on knowing somebody than work or brainpower. The best thing about this program is that it’s a very low-stakes way to practice interacting in everyday ways with others. It provides five or six years of social training in just a few sessions.” –Clark Thurston, social cognition research participant

Real-World Results from a three-month follow-up show:

  • 71 percent reported improvement in starting a conversation
  • 100 percent reported improvement in maintaining a conversation
  • 86 percent reported improvement in understanding other points of view
  • 86 percent reported improvement in establishing relationships

This article was re-purposed from the original post on

Recently featured on the TODAY show, The Brain Performance Institute at the Center for BrainHealth demonstrates how the applications of virtual reality go far behind gaming and entertainment. This solution can build social-reasoning skills and real-world confidence to change the lives of participants.

Meet the Center and its Brain Performance Institute™ team at the Techweek Kickoff Party: Behind the Scenes With Immersive Reality, and experience this life-changing tech firsthand.



7 Virtual Reality Headsets | Behind the Scenes with 900lbs

Techweek is coming to Dallas for the very first time starting on October 31st, and Tech in Motion is hosting the official Kickoff Party. Tech in Motion will take you behind the scenes of immersive reality for the Kickoff Party (RSVP and see details here), but before the event, let’s take you backstage with the companies providing all the action. Meet the experts behind demo company 900lbs as they walk you through the VR headset options on the market – but first, check out this awesome Dallas Cowboys Jumbotron project they worked on recently…



If we’re talking Chinese Zodiac, 2016 is the year of the Monkey, and if we’re talking wearable technology, 2016 is the year of Virtual and Augmented Reality headsets. If you’re new to the game, check out our old blog post which explains the similarities and differences between virtual and augmented reality.

Because this wearable tech is still in the introduction stage of the product life cycle, there are a lot of options to choose from. So, which headset should you pick? At 900lbs, we’ve found creative uses for many of them. We’ve compiled a list of the coolest, mind-blowing headsets so you can decide for yourself how you can enter a new reality, from the most affordable to the swankiest.

Virtual Reality Headsets

google cardboard VRGoogle Cardboard – $16.99

Google Cardboard, at the low price of $16.99, styles itself as the every man’s virtual reality headset. All you need to do is fold the cardboard, insert your smartphone into the slot, and off you go into another dimension. On top of the low prices and tons of fun Cardboard designs, Google will soon be offering the Daydream platform. Daydream will allow users to bring the applications they already know and love into virtual reality, such as YouTube and Facebook, on top of hundreds of new exciting apps to come.

samsung vrSamsung Gear VR – $99

The Samsung Gear VR works in a similar fashion to the Google Cardboard, you only need to slide your Galaxy phone into the headset. Just like Google Cardboard, the visuals delivered from these two systems will be grainier than some of the options further down this list, because you are essentially just looking at your phone screen really, really close up. Samsung also offers a 360 degree camera for as low as $25, so you can film, edit, and upload your own 360 content all for under $200.

Samsung will be at the event giving you a first-hand look at this, get a ticket for the Kickoff Party here.

sony playstation vrSony Playstation VR – $399

Sony Playstation VR connects to your Playstation for a whole new gaming experience. The headset is designed so you forget you are wearing it, and the 5.7 inch OLED display has a 120 Hz refresh rate, so you definitely are in no danger of any queasiness. The Playstation VR is likely the easiest way for consumers to enter the VR market, as it hooks directly up to the most popular gaming console. This option was JUST released on October 13, 2016.


oculus riftOculus Rift – $599

Oculus Rift, developed by Palmer Luckey, funded by Kickstarter, and purchased by Facebook for $2 billion, is the technology that brought virtual reality back to the center stage of the gaming and technology world. The screen has a 2160×1200 resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate, so again, no motion sickness. There are Oculus Touch hand controllers in the making, which will throw users even further into the action.


htc viveHTC Vive – $799

The Vive, a collaboration between HTC and Valve, the makers of the popular PC gaming platform Steam, offers a more immersive experience. Thanks to motion tracking stations and a chaperone guidance system, users can actually walk around while wearing the headset, instead of just chilling on the sofa. The Vive has also a 90Hz refresh rate, so there’s no reason to worry about contracting motion sickness. There are also two wireless hand controllers available, with 24 sensors each, which makes interacting with the virtual world extremely easy.

RSVP for the Kickoff Party and you’ll be able to experience the Vive yourself!

Mixed Reality Headsets

microsoft hololensMicrosoft Hololens – $3000

The Microsoft Hololens allows the wearer to manipulate digital content and the real world simultaneously. Instead of completely immersing the user in a new world, the Hololens presents a mixed reality with interactive “holographic” images (here’s why it’s not actually holograms) layered on top of reality. The Hololens stands out from the others because it is completely wireless. The tech is battery powered; there is a fully operational Windows 10 system in the headset. Sensors on the headset lend to simple control of the device through the direction of your gaze, hand gestures, and voice activation.

meta 2Meta 2 – $949

The Meta 2, while not currently on the market yet, is a huge step up from its predecessor. It offers a 90-degree field of view, and a 2560×1440 display with positional tracking for your hands. These glasses are not wireless like the Hololens, but they do offer a larger field of view.



Just recently announced, the Intel Project Alloy aims to create a headset that works with merged reality. Similar to augmented reality, but instead of blending virtual objects into reality like the Hololens, Project Alloy mixes real objects into virtual reality. The headset will be cordless, and Intel plans to use an open source model with the hardware in the future, so any third-party can develop headsets of their own. This new take on headsets could change the virtual reality industry completely.

Fove VR, another company taking the technology even further, is creating a headset with super accurate eye tracking. The headset can read the movement of your eyes to an accuracy of 1 degree, which means while wearing this headset, characters in virtual reality will actually react and respond to your eye contact and head movements. Eye tracking could potentially increase the viability of other platforms rendering capability as well. Since we can track where the eye is looking the headset would only have to dedicate resources to a specific portion of the screen, rendering the rest of the screen at a lower resolution while maintaining visual fidelity in the user’s field of view.

This article was originally posted on and can be seen here.

Come join Tech in Motion on October 31st at the Techweek Kickoff Party: Behind the Scenes With Immersive Reality to meet the 900lbs team and experience some of these headsets for yourself.

Grab a free ticket for both Techweek and the Kickoff Party – see all the information here.

invite 2 VR

The Future of Virtual Reality

1097723620Written by Arthur van Hoff, CTO at Jaunt

Virtual reality is something many people have heard of, but few have experienced. Yet trying to put it into words is, as one blogger stated, “like trying to take a picture of your favorite song.” Poised to disrupt the way we see, live and engage with the world, the fully immersing experience of VR has the potential to change the face not just of gaming or entertainment, but has implications for education, travel, healthcare, real estate, and more.

Today, you can put on VR goggles and have an immersive experience beyond your imagination – with high-definition 360-degree, 3D video and binaural audio, you can feel as though you’re in the world’s most spectacular places, on stage next to your favorite musician, or on the field cheering on your home team, even when you’re thousands of miles away.


The truly exciting part about virtual reality is that this is just the beginning. The potential applications for this technology is something that excites us tremendously and we are continuously exploring.

Much of the content that is currently being developed for virtual reality goggles is simulated or digitally produced, along the lines of video games. At Jaunt, we’re building the full-stack technology to create cinematic VR. This includes the camera, software editing, and content production. Instead of exploring a simulated world, you can be transported to other places in the real world.


This also means exploring new means of storytelling beyond the current capabilities of traditional film-making. We’re discovering new ways to use the technology, and it’s opening up huge new doors for writers, directors, actors, artists, and other content creators.

We shared some of what we’ve discovered and created at the Tech In Motion event this week. We enjoyed sharing the experience of cinematic VR with you and you’ll see some action photos in an event recap posted later in the month.

Tech in Motion Silicon Valley is also proud to announce their September event, Security & Technology: BYOD, Home, & Mobile {Sponsored By Microsoft & Appvance}. You can RSVP here.

arthurAbout the author: Arthur van Hoff is serial entrepreneur and was most recently CTO at Flipboard. He started his career in Silicon Valley at Sun Microsystems where he was an early developer of the Java programming language. Since then he has started several successful companies. Arthur has expertise in machine learning, big data, mobile applications, 3D printing, and computational photography. He is originally from the Netherlands and has a master’s degree in Computer Science from Strathclyde University in Glasgow.