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Towards a Conceptual Model for Consideration of Adverse Effects of Immersive Virtual Reality for Individuals with Autism

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Design, User Experience, and Usability: Design for Diversity, Well-being, and Social Development (HCII 2021)

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Abstract

Interest in the use of virtual reality (VR) technologies for individuals with autism has been increasing for over two decades. Recently, research interest has been growing in the area of immersive virtual reality (IVR) technologies thanks to increased availability and affordability. Affordances and theorized benefits of IVR for individuals with autism are quite promising, with the majority of research reports overwhelmingly presenting positive outcomes. Notably absent in the dominant research discourse, however, are considerations of how leveraging the affordances of IVR might lead to unintentional, unexpected, and perhaps deleterious outcomes. This is a particular concern in light of documented adverse effects associated with IVR, such as cybersickness, increased anxiety, and sensory disturbances. Given known characteristics of autism, the impact of adverse effects potentially could be even more pronounced for people with autism than for the general population. In the current paper, we present a conceptual process model for minimizing potential adverse effects of IVR for individuals with autism. Specifically, we highlight the notion of gradual acclimation and detail how gradual acclimation unfolds in a stage-wise manner across implementation contexts and technologies. When working with vulnerable populations, researchers have a special ethical obligation and greater responsibility to actively take precautions to help minimize real or potential risks. Correspondingly, we assert that application of the implementation procedures detailed in the current paper can contribute to researchers minimizing and controlling for potential adverse effects of IVR for individuals with autism.

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Schmidt, M., Newbutt, N. (2021). Towards a Conceptual Model for Consideration of Adverse Effects of Immersive Virtual Reality for Individuals with Autism. In: Soares, M.M., Rosenzweig, E., Marcus, A. (eds) Design, User Experience, and Usability: Design for Diversity, Well-being, and Social Development. HCII 2021. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 12780. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-78224-5_23

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-78224-5_23

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