Innovation with 3DVIA: Using 3DVIA Scenes to Empower Children with Autism
At 3DVIA, we are constantly surprised by our users’ ability to find innovative new ways to use 3D technology. This was never more the case than with 3DVinci’s Bonnie Roskes. As part of Project Spectrum, Bonnie combined 3DVIA Scenes with Google SketchUp to help autistic children communicate and prepare for stressful, real-life situations by virtually experiencing them first in 3D. Recent studies have shown that one out of 100 children is born with some level of autism. Although there is currently no cure, there is strong evidence that early treatment and therapy can significantly improve children’s chances for success later in life.
Beginning her career as a professional structural engineer, Bonnie started her involvement in 3D technologies as a technical writer for CAD applications. In 2002 she literally wrote the book on a then-new 3D modeling application called SketchUp, long before it was acquired by the Internet giant Google. Through her writing and experience with 3D creation applications, she found many parents and educators asking for 3D project content for children. She started 3DVinci as a way to help people of any age think and create in 3D by providing easy-to-follow projects and instructions.
Through her work with 3DVinci and experience with her own autistic son, she also became involved with Project Spectrum. Started by employees at SketchUp in conjunction with the Autism Society of Boulder, Project Spectrum aims to help children with autism create and communicate with 3D computer applications. Autistic children with limited social or verbal skills are sometimes able to use 3D models to express their ideas and tell a story. And many people on the autism spectrum are visually and spatially gifted, making these individuals ideal candidates for 3D learning materials.
Bonnie started her partnership with Project Spectrum by creating step-by-step projects using Google SketchUp and the Google 3D Warehouse to promote communication, collaboration and cooperation skills in autistic children. This was driven by Project Spectrum’s experiences with children who were limited verbally, but who made very intricate models that they would not have been able to communicate by other means.
Another area she has found 3D modeling applications helpful has been preparing autistic children for unfamiliar, stressful situations. By experiencing and interacting with a virtual replica of a location (e.g., a grocery store or dentist’s office), children can familiarize themselves beforehand and even have fun in the process. For example, in a virtual dentist office, instead of being greeted by the dentist, the child could find her teeth cleaned by Homer Simpson!
Bonnie’s discovery of 3DVIA Scenes allowed her to take this project to the next level. She explained, “with 3DVIA Scenes, it was much easier than with SketchUp alone. You can actually walk through the event and rehearse interactions.” Rather than having to open SketchUp and manually manipulate the model, 3DVIA Scenes lets the child assume the role of an avatar and navigate the experience as if they were truly there.” Needless to say, we at 3DVIA were thrilled to hear about this innovative and compassionate use of our technology!
So what’s next for Bonnie? She is currently working on a handful of new projects and has been providing feedback to make 3DVIA Scenes an even better product. She continues to write, speak at conferences and post her latest insights on 3D modeling, Project Spectrum and Google SketchUp on her blog at 3dvinci.blogspot.com.