BOISE, Idaho — The City of Boise and Boise State University have teamed up to create a virtual reality experience aimed at helping children with autism navigate crowded and sometimes intimidating airport environments.
Residents can try out the airport experience for free at the Boise Public Library’s main branch or download the program for free for use with personal virtual reality equipment.
“The Boise Airport is an asset for the entire Treasure Valley, and we want to ensure all passengers have a positive experience,” said Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. “This new program lets children familiarize themselves with airport procedures in a comfortable setting, so when they do fly for the first time, they’ll be fully prepared for what to expect.”
BSU students collaborated with airport employees to create a real-life airport experience. The students, who participated in a Work Study program through the University’s Games, Interactive Media and Mobile (GIMM) Lab, were responsible for creating the script, and filming and editing of the VR program.
The final product allows users to simulate everything from checking luggage and passing through the security checkpoint to boarding an aircraft.
“We understand the airport has a lot of moving parts and can be a daunting experience for some children on the autism spectrum,” said Airport Director Rebecca Hupp. “We want to take the surprise element out of the equation for families traveling with children for the first time.”
While the program is aimed to help children with autism, experts say it could also be used by anyone who may want to familiarize themselves with the airport environment. The experience is available for download and during VR hours at the Main Library.
“Providing free access to this type of experience is a cornerstone of Boise Public Library’s mission,” said Library Director Kevin Booe. “We are here to extend the power of technology and education to all members of the community.”