Greek university students were inspired by the death of British Columbian teen, Amanda Todd. The engineering group has made a B.C-inspired interactive virtual reality project which teaches students how to identify bullying and act on it.
The way it works is that users download The Amanda Project on a smartphone application and after that, strap the phone to virtual reality glasses. They see images of tormenting and bullying from the point of view of the bully, the observer, and the individual being harassed. The app user’s characteristics and physical reactions are then measured by the application and their experience changes based on their response. The creators say that data can be used to distinguish and prevent bullying by cultivating mindfulness, empathy, and self-confidence.
Vasileios Baltatzis, one of the creators, said the project was roused by the death of B.C. teen Amanda Todd, who committed suicide in 2012 after being blackmailed by an online predator to whom she revealed her breasts on a webcam. “It was a really heartbreaking moment realizing that people all over the world are living stuff like this every day, and this was their reality,” Vasileios said. Baltatzis claims they weren’t happy with what was or was not being done to help teens, “so, we decided to use our technical knowledge to do something about it.”
The group was in contact with Amanda Todd’s mom, Carol, a month ago to inform her about the project and their participation in the Microsoft Imagine Cup in Seattle, where they have made it to the finals.
“When I first got the email I was reading it thinking, ‘this is awesome’,” says Carol Todd who travelled to Seattle from Vancouver to meet with the team. “It’s an honour to Amanda, and it is a bittersweet moment for me. But it’s just one of those stories that give you- it rocks your heart.”
Todd said she believes that the project will do well since it uses a sprouting technology that is alluring to young people. It will likewise be helpful to high schoolers who have told her they do not have the skills to learn what to do about bullying.
“With this application, it gives them the practice, it gives them the ability to put the knowledge into their heads whether they’re victim or a bystander,” Todd explains. Vasileios Baltatzis emphasized that bullying is a global plague and the team is dedicated to making a change through their project. “If we can help some people, it is the greatest thing man can do with technology.”