The application of Virtual Reality is practically without limit, far beyond the areas of most obvious area of entertainment.
It can be a wonderful resource for education or scientific endeavour, and could help with extensive areas of healthcare including visualising minute surgery in real time. Other heathcare applications could be of a kinder and less invasive nature.
A pioneering program in the United States is using virtual reality experiences to help ease the pain of sick children. The pilot scheme is being run out of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California, helping patients diagnosed with illnesses like Sickle cell disease.
This conditions leads to startling periods of intense pain which can last for hours or days. Conventional medicine has little effect, and strong medication is used to numb the pain.
Virtual Reality provides an entirely different experience, helping these young patients to escape for a time. With a combination of enveloping visuals and audio, it’s possible to become distracted enough to be swept away, moving their focus away from the pain.
The system was rigged up by Simon Robertson as part of his company Kind VR. The first ‘game’ involves strapping on a VR headset with a smartphone inside, before plunging beneath the waves on a nautical adventure.
Players drift beneath the deep blue sea, meeting various creatures including a turtle, dolphins and even a gigantic whale. It’s possible to use a remote control to shoot out balls that change the colour of your undersea companions, or you can just sit back and enjoy the experience.
It has all been designed to work with a range of patients, including those with limited mobility, and to exist in a form that can be easily cleaned and sterilised after use.
Kind VR wants to expand this technology to hospitals across America and Canada, and hopefully it will spread across the world in the near future.