Hull Uni graduates launch groundbreaking virtual reality game Botanika

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 5 Apr 2017

University of Hull graduates have developed a virtual reality (VR) game designed to help children and young people on the autistic spectrum.

'Botanika' allows young people to immerse themselves in their own virtual reality garden where they can plant, create and design, as well as connect with other people in the virtual world.

It has been developed by VISR VR, a company founded two years ago by computer science graduate Louis Deane and Lindsay West, joint managing director of Hull manufacturer Garthwest Ltd.

VISR VR worked with autism awareness charity CASPA to develop Botanika, which was commissioned by Microsoft.

Louis said: "The team at VISR has created something fantastic.

"The immersive experience of planting your own garden really helped with how in control these young people felt and in turn enabled them to feel at ease."

Based at the University's Enterprise Centre, VISR now employs 17 members of staff and has a client base including the likes of Google, Coca Cola and Microsoft.

The company has also provided virtual reality headsets for blockbusters including Star Wars the Force Awakens, and last year provided the first-ever 360 filming for Glastonbury.

Botanika was recently showcased to 15,000 people at the Microsoft Future Decoded Tech event. Once released, it will be available on Xbox, PlayStation, PCs, and mobile phones.

VISR's Ellie Battersby said: "The game is liberating for people on the autistic spectrum because they are in a fully immersed world. It frees them from some of the stresses they feel in a real-world situation, because they are in control of everything in the world they are creating."

Ellie said the real world applications of virtual reality are on the rise as people begin to realise it is more than just for entertainment.

She said: "Virtual reality is going to be integrated into everything. We deal with VR on a daily basis and when we show people what it can do they are awestruck.

"It puts a smile on your face, because you forget how incredible this technology really is.

"It is great to be at the forefront of this. A lot of people don't realise this is happening, and it's happening in Hull."

VISR's Aslan Silva, who created Botanika, said: "To be working on a project to provide safe, social platforms for people to enjoy and be creative alongside each other is incredible, and one I'm proud to be a part of."

Lindsay West said: "We have worked very hard in Hull for many years to really make a difference. This is a positive story coming from gaming and VR and showing what a difference this kind of application can have to people's lives."

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