An innovative Virtual Reality Simulation Game is now in the testing stages and will support disabled people to get better access when traveling with Northern.
The pioneering technology will let passengers explore their journey, finding the kind of support they require ahead of travelling in the comfort of their own home.
Those using the game will get to experience trains, stations and also interaction with station and onboard staff during the realistic simulation which can be accessed via phone, tablet, PCs and low-cost VR headsets.
The innovative project won funding from the Department for Transport’s Accessibility Transport Research and Innovation Grants (TRIG: Accessibility) programme which is being carried out by Connected Places Catapult who will develop, test and develop the app.
The simulation game itself is being developed by lead partner Chrome Angel Solutions along with digital technology experts Totem Learning. Support is also being provided by Angel Trains, Community Rail Lancashire and Northern.
Testing of the first demonstrator prototype has just been launched with the game being rigorously trialled by a group of volunteers from Northern Accessibility User Group (NAUG) and also Community Rail Lancashire.
NAUG are an independent pan-disability railway user group support who help advise on creating better accessibility throughout Northern’s services and have been closely involved throughout the development of the simulation, identifying accessibility challenges, developing designs and currently taking part in the software’s testing.
The simulation has been created in a bid to support disabled passengers and those with travel-related anxiety to build confidence through familiarity prior to undertaking a journey. The game offers travel as one of a range of characters which differing accessibility needs and provides varying journey scenarios.
Mark Powles Commercial and Customer Director, at Northern said: “Our customers are the heart of everything we do, and we are dedicated to making Northern’s services accessible to everyone, and to having a positive impact for the north.
“This technology is the first of its kind and has been developed alongside the independent Northern Accessibility User Group (NAUG) and supported by Northern, to empower people to use public transport – no matter their circumstances.”
Mark Robinson of Chrome Angel Solutions, who is leading the project added: “It’s fantastic to be working with such an enthusiastic group of users, staff and the incredibly creative team at Totem Learning to bring this amazing idea to life. We are very grateful and excited to have the opportunity to demonstrate the huge potential of this technology to support people travelling”.
Tony Jennings, NAUG, said: “I am delighted to have been involved with Chrome Angel Solutions, who are developing an exciting and innovative Virtual Reality (VR) simulation game.
“The game provides an immersive VR experience, both at the station and on board the train to reassure disabled passengers when traveling by train, helping build confidence to travel and raising awareness of what passenger assistance is available and what to expect.
“Importantly, the team have engaged and collaborated via workshops with disabled people throughout the development.”
Richard Watts, Chair, Community Rail Lancashire said: “For over ten years Community Rail Lancashire has supported people to access train travel but working in partnership with leaders in digital technology has been a first for us. The Serious Game that has been developed will form an integral part of our educational outreach and will, we are sure, help many thousands of people to travel more confidently on our railways.”
Helen Routledge, CEO, Totem Learning said: “Games have the power to place people into an engaging and safe environment and VR enables them to immerse deeper into the experience. The combination of these two techniques creates a solution that delivers real impact. We are delighted to be part of this wonderful team.”
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