Technology is here to help us improve in every aspect of our lives. VR solutions are finding their way into the field of medicine: an Australian company developed a VR solution to help people with dementia, and a Dutch development helps hospitalized people stay in touch with their school or loved ones.
Do you fancy a canoe ride? Would you like to experience a scuba dive? Or you would prefer to contemplate architecture from an Italian gondola? If you are old, suffering from dementia, and living in a nursing home these activities might seem impossible. But not if the staff hands over to you a VR headset which makes all the above possible.
VR technology is already deeply immersed in medicine: at Stanford University, students are using VR headsets to see inside an infant’s beating heart to explore congenital heart defects. Medical students can walk around inside a beating heart, manipulate it and observe how a deficiency impacts normal functions of the organ. Moreover, at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, clinicians tapped a vendors AR technology to overlay CT scan images onto a patient’s leg during reconstructive surgery. Medical experts’ studies show VR tools are helping pain management.
An Australian company developed a VR unit solely to enhance the quality of life of people living with dementia in nursing homes. The reason is personal: the developer’s dad (who is also the founder of the company) was diagnosed with dementia. In nursing homes, everything is about comfort and care, with little room for fun and joy. Those with limited mobility have limited options for entertainment. This is where VR can make a difference: technology, the soothing content gives back experiences to those who miss them most. Caregivers can track the VR experience on a tablet, which opens up communication between staff and patients.
A Dutch company took this concept even further by developing VRiend. The company custom built a small toy, that scans and records the environment it is placed in and broadcasts this environment to another location. VRiend then it is connected to a specially designed VR google. The person wearing this glass can be present in the virtual environment the hardware is placed in, outside the nursing home or hospital the patient it is confined. The technology is mainly used to connect sick children with their school or to connect the elderly with limited movement to their loved ones.
Elderly people, patients living with dementia respond very well to this technology. VR technology offers them a unique experience that generates further, real-life interactions. Gives them a reason to call their relatives, to go in the room next door to speak about the experience. And this is what matters.
Authors: Eva Lajko and Laszlo Varga