Social interaction generator

Pro-GIS – Prototype of a Social Interaction Generator for people with intellectual disabilities

Disability concerned: Mental disability

Topics: Communication, Travel, Education, Interpersonal relationships

The prototype is a further development of an existing programme for young people with intellectual disabilities (ID) to learn how to move in public space in virtual reality (VR). The new prototype aims to broaden the range of social interactions between an avatar and the user (12-18 year olds carrying out the exercise) in the context of using public transport (bus and train). This prototype was developed in a participatory way with 26 students from 2 schools (9 girls and 17 boys).

The participatory approach took place in 3 workshops: 1) identification of stressful situations that could be developed into scenarios to learn how to manage social interactions; 2) configuration of the avatars by the young people to make them as realistic as possible in relation to their perception of the stressful situations; 3) validation of the avatars and of a final scenario (prototype) by the young people.

20 scenarios were identified by the young people, grouped into 5 categories: requests for help, interactions initiated by strangers, interactions with other passengers, interactions with the controller, safety. The avatars designed by the young people were mostly realistic characters; some of the young people preferred to make more impressive avatars, which better embodied the stressful situations. Three scenarios were developed: an avatar that sits in front of the young person and looks at him/her, an avatar that comes and sits in front of the young person and looks at him/her, an avatar that comes and approaches the young person and offers to follow him/her. The majority of the students considered the scenarios to be realistic and likely to help them learn appropriate behaviours; however, they did suggest some ways in which the scenarios could be improved to be more realistic.


– Access to the perceptions and realities of young people, which allowed the identification of new and unexpected elements (e.g. stress generated by the fact that postal bus inspectors are not identifiable because they do not wear uniforms)

– Importance of individualising the VR scenarios for learning, therefore having tools that can be easily adapted by teachers

– Prior experience with VR varies greatly from one young person to another (some use video games, others do not; some participated in the first project, others did not)

– Need to go into greater depth on the subjects addressed by the young people during the workshops, even if this went beyond the objectives (e.g. situations evoked that suggested unsafe behaviour).


– Increased efficiency because the tools could be developed quickly and integrated into a pedagogical approach.


– Time frame too short for a project in partnership with specialised schools, but deadlines could be negotiated with the FRH.

– We were not able to participate in the training days.

– Very constructive exchanges with the monitoring committee.

Continuation of the project:

Submission of a project to Innosuisse for the development of a tool enabling professionals who support adults with ID to develop individualised learning programmes. This project will be carried out in a participatory manner with professionals and people with ID.

a simulation shows a man on a bus saying "get off the bus, we're going to the movies together."



Geneviève Piérart

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