Dylan Yamada-Rice

Royal College of Art, U.K & Dubit

Using makerspaces as an opportunity for involving children in the development of Virtual Reality content and play

This paper reports on the German part of the MakEY project that considered how makerspaces can provide opportunities for children to create in Virtual Reality (VR). ‘VR is fast becoming a reality, with estimates that over 200m headsets will have been sold by 2020, and the market value for VR hardware and software reaching well over $20bn by then’ (Yamada-Rice et al, 2017, p.4). Reactions to children’s use of immersive technology have predominately focused on health impacts (e.g. vision, balance, sense of self). Bailey & Bailenson (2017) also found that research about children and VR has predominately focused on those with medical needs or learning difficulties.

Yamada-Rice led a previous in-depth commercially-funded study for Dubit, a digital games company that consisted of a large-scale global survey on children’s access to and knowledge of VR, which concluded that:

‘beyond basic questions…it’s critical…to ask how children can learn to critique VR content. As with any medium, we should want young people across cultures to be critically literate – choosing and engaging thoughtfully across diverse VR content, but also to be content creators themselves’ (Yamada-Rice, 2018 n.p)

One of the study’s key findings showed children wanted to take a physical object into VR to feel more grounded, which became the focus for the German MakEY case study which will be discussed thereafter, specifically reflecting on the potential of makerspaces to allow children to create VR content and take physical toys into this space to play with. This offers a means of enabling young children to participate in an environment from which they might otherwise be excluded. Insight will be provided on how children create in/for VR, differences between creativity in physical and virtual spaces and how these process can be used to provide children with a way of critiquing VR experiences by understanding better how they are made. As Ingold (2013) states, historically and presently there is a strong human connection between making and knowing. These insights are important because as VR grows it seems likely that children will access top-end devices in shared spaces, of which makerspaces could be one, and inclusive practices are important to consider in this context if the technologies are to benefit children across all ages, and all social and cultural groups.


Bailey, J. O. & Bailenson, J. N. (2011) Infinite reality: Avatars, eternal life, new worlds, and the dawn of the virtual evolution. New York, NY: William Morrow.

Ingold, T. (2013) Making: Anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture. London: Routledge

Yamada-Rice, D. (2018) Do emerging forms of digital play require new means for analysing data? Published online at: <www.medium.com>

Yamada-Rice, D., Mushtaq, F. Woodgate, A., Bosman, D., Douthwaite, A., Douthwaite, I., Harris, W., Holt, R., Kleeman, D., Marsh, J., Milovidov, E., Mon Williams, M., Parry, B., Riddler, A., Robinson, P., Rodrigues, D. Thompson, S. and Whitley, S. (2017) Children and Virtual Reality: Emerging Possibilities and Challenges. Accessed at: <http:// digilitey.eu>.



Dylan Yamada-Rice is a Senior Tutor in Information Experience Design at the Royal College of Art. She is an artist and researcher specializing in narratives, storytelling and digital play. She is also a Senior Research Manager for Dubit, a company that specialises in strategy, research, and digital for kids entertainment brands. As a result her research is at the intersection of experimental design and social sciences, industry and academic knowhow. Dylan’s work across both roles is focused on the design of digital storytelling , games and play on a range of platforms such as apps, augmented and virtual reality, as well as new content for children’s television. She also specializes in experimental visual and multimodal research methods. Dylan is Director of Industry Partner Links for the COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) network DigiLitEY. She is currently a lead researcher on a commercially-funded study looking at children’s engagement with Virtual Reality content a caption