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Students develop virtual reality program to help ex-inmates

CHAMPAIGN, Ill.- Graphic and industrial design students at the University of Illinois have created “immersive reality scenarios” to help prison inmates on the verge of release navigate the world outside.

The spring class involved students developing a headset and controller followed by the scenarios themselves. Scenarios include navigating public transportation, paying for gas at the pump and ordering from a fast-food restaurant’s digital kiosk.

Lisa Mercer is a graphic design professor who co-taught the class with industrial design professor William Bullock. Mercer says the goal was to teach students to use methods to create products based on social-impact research that are easy to use.

They worked with U of I professor Rebecca Ginsburg and the Education Justice Project . It offers educational courses to inmates at Danville Correctional Center.