Microsoft uses BBC Micro Bit and virtual reality to prepare autistic kids for jobs


Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning not all people that meet the classification have identical behaviors. Some of these folks are very functional, while others may struggle more to socialize, or not be able to hold jobs.

According to Microsoft, 85 percent of those with Autism do not hold full-time employment. This is unfortunate, as some of those with the classification are likely falling through the cracks -- capable of work, but not equipped. Luckily, the Windows-maker, in association with CASPA and Dennis Publishing, is aiming to change this with some unlikely tools -- the BBC Micro Bit and HTC Vive virtual reality solution.

"The participants -- aged between seven and 19 -- were taught to code using the BBC micro:bit -- a programmable mini-computer that features an LED display, accelerometer, compass, micro USB plug and external battery pack. They learned to light up the LEDs, and change that display by moving and turning the micro:bit", says Microsoft.

The company further says, "the group were then fully immersed in virtual reality by trying out the HTC Vive, a headset that is expected to cost nearly £700 when it is released in the UK. Using the handsets, the youngsters created objects such as trees and benches in the virtual world, while beehives emitted bees that flew at them and cherry blossom blew off trees and swirled around them".

While the scope of the project is a bit limited -- not everyone will want a career in coding or technology -- Microsoft still deserves major kudos. Keep in mind, CASPA focuses on other life skills and functions, so this is merely an enhancement to the existing efforts.

Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer, Microsoft explains, "working with Dennis and CASPA on this event helped us to showcase the potential of workplace diversity in the UK and gave us a wonderful opportunity to help young people affected by autism to connect a love and understanding of technology with the business and communication skills that will enable them to thrive in the world of work".

What do you think of this initiative? Tell me in the comments.

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