Virtual swimming may stop drowning
VIRTUAL technology is teaching people to swim and survive in Australia’s treacherous seas — without getting wet.
A new water safety program designed to prevent drownings, uses 360-degree lifelike, interactive videos to place kids in virtual rips and teach them how to “escape” and survive.
It was hoped the technology — applied through headmounted displays — could also be used to help migrants learn to identify, avoid and survive potentially deadly currents and rips in Aussie oceans.
It was developed by Swinburne University and Life Saving Victoria. Swinburne researcher Paola Araiza-Alba, from Mexico, said the technology promised to save lives not only in Australia but around the world.
People could learn how to handle rips without being placed “in the real thing” and put in danger, she said.
“Many migrants know nothing of rips. When I arrived in Australia I, myself, knew nothing about them,” she said.
The virtual reality education program could also be used by Australians living hundreds or even thousands of kilometres from the sea; providing them with the skills to spot and get out of rips when they were on beach holidays.
Drowning is among the top five causes of unintentional injury deaths in children under 14 worldwide, with about 1.2 million people around the world — one in five of them children — dying by drowning every year.
And for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for non-fatal submersion injuries, with most drownings occurring in open water and rips often to blame.
“Roughly 80 per cent of drowning incidents can be prevented, and public water-safety education and basic swimming skills are the key interventions. However, access to learning opportunities can be limited by cost and location ... sustainable solutions need to be explored to counteract identifiable issues that prevent children from accessing watersafety education. One such solution is using immersive VR technology to enhance student’s water-safety knowledge,” her report states.