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Insight/Smart DCU celebrates World Autism Day, showcasing autism friendly campus

Submitted on Tuesday, 02/04/2024

In honour of World Autism Day, Dublin City University and Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics is proud to showcase the initiatives undertaken by Smart DCU to create an autism-friendly campus environment. Through collaboration with organisations like ASIAM and DCU Autism Project, as well as leveraging cutting-edge technology, Smart DCU has made significant strides in ensuring inclusivity and support for autistic people.

Smart DCU is an initiative to turn the Dublin City University (DCU) campus, which is a microcosm of a city, into a Smart City Ecosystem. Smart DCU’s mission is to improve the campus experience for students and staff alike. Smart DCU is the only smart campus in Ireland and places special emphasis on harnessing the revolutionary capabilities of emerging technologies to support autistic individuals.

Smart DCU is also developing a fully immersive Digital Twin with Bentley through Dr Ali Intizar from School of Electronic and Computer Engineering at DCU, utilising Virtual Reality for campus exploration. This initiative uses  avatars to guide users along routes to different buildings and rooms, accompanied by real-time sound level reporting on indoor locations.

Through consultations with experts in the autistic community, it became evident that navigating the sprawling campus can present significant challenges and stress for autistic individuals. Smart DCU, in collaboration with Disability & Learning Support Service, and the DCU Autism Friendly project, will soon introduce a web interface to Bentley’s open Cities Platform. This is a three-dimensional Digital Twin of the campus. This innovative tool will enable students and staff to visualise the campus layout, identify quieter spaces, and sensory pods search for buildings, and areas promoting health and well being.

Users will be able to delve deeper into these locations, including accessing immersive pop-up 360-degree images for a thorough understanding. The aim is to familiarise  individuals with the campus environment, minimising and increasing predictability.

Research indicates that providing detailed information, such as volume levels and visual representations before visits can reduce anxiety associated with unfamiliar environments.

With the Smart DCU Digital Twin, staff and students will be able to navigate their campus virtually and understand which areas are noisy and have high footfall, allowing them to avoid these routes and have a sensory friendly experience.





Engagement with ASIAM and DCU Autism

Smart DCU recognizes the importance of consulting with advocacy groups such as ASIAM and DCU Autism Project to prioritise autism-friendly initiatives. By actively engaging with these organisations, Smart DCU ensures that the voices of autistic people are central to campus development projects.

Generation of 360-Degree Videos

Smart DCU has produced immersive 360-degree videos showcasing autism-friendly routes to specific locations on campus. These videos serve as valuable resources for DCU’s autistic community, offering visual guidance and familiarisation with event venues or designated quiet spaces.

Technology Presentations for Students with Autism

Recognising the transformative potential of emerging technologies, Smart DCU has organised presentations for students on how technology can assist them. By introducing innovative solutions, Smart DCU empowers individuals to navigate campus life more effectively and independently.

Collaboration with DCU Global Challenges

Smart DCU collaborates with DCU Global Challenges to conduct research on enhancing campus accessibility for autistic community. This partnership underscores Smart DCU’s commitment to addressing global challenges through interdisciplinary collaboration and innovative solutions.

Utilisation of Bentley OpenCities Planner

Smart DCU leverages the Bentley OpenCities Planner platform to provide students with a comprehensive view of campus facilities, including quieter sensory pods, restaurants, and other amenities. This web-based interface facilitates easy navigation and access to essential resources.

Advancements in Digital Twin Technology

Smart DCU is at the forefront of digital twin technology, utilising platforms like Bentley Systems iTwin Platform and UnReal Engine enriched with IoT sensors data to create immersive, real-time experiences. While currently limited to high-end PCs, these advancements hold immense potential for enhancing accessibility and inclusivity on campus.

Future Directions

As the world’s first Autism Friendly University, DCU is continually adapting the operational environment to make it more autism friendly. To contribute to this end,  Smart DCU is committed to ongoing collaborations and initiatives, such as liasing with the Eagles Autism Foundation and pursuing technological innovations.