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City academics launch new EVA Park film

Watch EVA Park in action and hear the views of its users

by George Wigmore (Senior Communications Officer)

Academics from City University London have launched a new film about EVA Park, a pioneering virtual world for people with aphasia.

Imagine if you were no longer able to express your thoughts, name your children or ask for a coffee in a bar. These are some of the problems faced by the 250,000 people living with aphasia in the UK.

Caused by damage to the regions of the brain that control language, usually as a result of stroke, aphasia can eliminate or severely reduce the use of speech with associated problems in reading, writing and speech comprehension.

The consequences for a person’s life are profound. For example, many individuals can no longer work or take part in cherished leisure activities. Loss of friends and feelings of social isolation are common.The problems of aphasia can be significantly reduced by speech and language therapy. However, services are overstretched, and not everyone gets the help they need. Research is needed into alternative supports for this vulnerable group.

To help with this, researchers from the Division of Language and Communication Science and the Centre for Human-Computer Interaction Design (HCID) at City University London - with funding from the Stroke Association - have developed an online virtual world for people with aphasia called EVA Park. EVA Park is a tranquil and engaging place, with green spaces, wildlife and functional locations such as hairdressers and cafes.

Within the virtual world users have their own individual avatars and communicate with each other in real time using a microphone and headset. It is a protected environment where people with aphasia can practice their conversation skills, regain confidence and enjoy social connections with others who share their difficulties.

City’s research has shown that users relished the opportunities provided in EVA Park and that their functional communication was significantly enhanced.City’s new film, launched today, will enable you to see Eva Park in action and hear the views of its users. You will hear the personal stories of John and Lorraine, who face the daily frustrations of aphasia, and learn about how EVA Park made a difference to them. For example, John’s partner, Paula, talks about how practising in EVA Park enabled John to order his own dinner in a restaurant for the first time since his stroke.

Stephanie Wilson, a Reader in Human-Computer Interaction at City University London who is part of the award winning team that created EVA, said:

“Technology such as EVA Park has huge potential for people with aphasia. This gorgeous and quirky virtual world has been a great success. People are able to enhance their communication skills by practising in a safe space and enjoy themselves at the same time.

"Our multidisciplinary approach of combining usability and speech and language expertise to deliver technological innovations such as EVA Park could help improve outcomes for those affected by aphasia following a stroke. You can see in this film the huge difference it has made to people’s lives.”

You can view the film on Vimeo or YouTube.

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