MediaLab unveils tech tool to tackle depression


20 Oct 2003

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MIT’s MediaLab Europe has developed a 3D online tool that will help teenagers to beat depression. The initiative received €1.27m in Irish Government backing.

Currently at prototype stage, “Personal Investigator” is a new 3D online development that invites users, particularly adolescents, to hunt for clues to solve personal problems in their lives. The technology was created by researchers from Trinity College and researchers at the MediaLab in Thomas Street.

The tool uses the latest online technologies and offers those with depression to become a virtual detective by asking them key questions regarding problems and potential solutions. The system is expected to be the first of its kind to integrate an established psychotherapeutic approach into a novel and engaging online 3D game.

The project is one of several research projects being undertaken at Irish third level institutions in collaboration with MediaLab Europe. Funding for the project was awarded under a Higher Education Authority (HEA) scheme established in 2000. The new director of MediaLab, Dr Simon Jones commented: “Combining the multi-disciplinary research model of Media Lab Europe with the world-class research expertise of Irish third level institutions is leading the world in delivering new research concepts, new applications and new academic connections.”

Other similarly funded projects involving collaboration between third-level institutions and the MediaLab include a game that allows children with disabilities in the National Rehabilitation Hospital that allows them to draw and create landscapes online and a system that provides for the monitoring and measurement of behavioural attention.

Speaking at the unveiling of the new solution, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Dermot Ahern TD said: “Online help is being developed in an innovative and creative way for adolescents suffering from depression to children with serious physical and learning disabilities. In just three years the HEA has successfully promoted and fostered collaboration between academic institutions and Media Lab Europe.”

He continued: “The scheme is now firmly established as a cornerstone of Irish innovation and I am confident that the 2003 recipients will further demonstrate that strong collaborations between Irish academic institutions and Media Lab Europe brings benefits to all.”

By John Kennedy