ARL is bringing virtual reality to Otago prison to help inmates learn to read while they fix cars (it is estimated that 65 percent of people in prison need help with literacy and numeracy). ARL has extensive experience with animation and virtual reality, and is using that technology to help inmates learn. Every six weeks or so, the VR hardware and software has been taken to Otago prison, where 12 inmates act as consultants - they test it out and give feedback on its development. The level of engagement has been "through the roof", and that's the whole point, according to Jimmy McLauchlan from Methodist Mission Southern, who teaches in prisons. McLauchlan has found many inmates are dyslexic, and find it difficult to engage in traditional 'pen and paper' learning. "This is an opportunity to reset things." he said.
The project is being privately funded, with Hawke's Bay iwi Ngāti Kahungunu committing to investing at least $2 million. The new tool has also impressed Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis. "As soon as you put on the headset you are in a workshop and there's a car in front of you," he said. "And it comes apart - like the nuts come off the wheel and the wheel slides out - it's like you're there. It is just unlimited what can be done."- condensed from an original article by Leigh-Marama McLachlan for RNZ