Virtual Reality in Hospital and How it’s Changing Lives


By Vivienne Burgess

We’ve all wished we could step out of the mundane and into somewhere new, if only for a little while, and recent advancements in Virtual Reality (VR) technology are now allowing us to do just that. Emerging VR headsets and games, designed to transports us to new and engaging places and states of being, have broadened the range of human experience, regardless of location, age, and ability.

For those whose everyday life is less a mundanity, more a struggle, virtual reality technology can significantly improve one’s standard of living. Take the case of hospitalised children at Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, who got to try out an exhilarating VR roller coaster experience provided by the company Oculus Rift.

Unfortunately it is sometimes the case that children in hospitals become isolated due to weak immune systems and have challenging daily schedules compared to many of their peers. In a video, shared by UMHealthSystems, of several children experiencing the VR roller coaster one youth says this is the type of palliative care he would be motivated to leave his room for.

Isolation in children can be damaging to their mental health, so offering VR in hospitals can provide virtual social experiences too – such as watching a movie in VR at the same time as friends, sharing the viewing experience just like at the cinema.

The therapeutic and exciting benefits of VR are relevant for adults too. NPR shares the story of Danny Kurtzman. Living with muscular dystrophy severely limits Kurtzman’s physical ability. However, at Singular University’s Future of Virtual Reality event, Kurtzman took the chance to experience virtual surfing. He had already experienced actual surfing lying down thanks to Life Rolls On, the non-profit organisation offering tailored sports experiences to paralyzed individuals. Through VR technology, Kurtzman experienced what it’s like to ride the waves while standing.

VR is also being used to further advancements in medical and psychological studies. Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab uses VR technology to carry out empathy experiments in which, for example, the subject gets to experience what it’s like seeing with colour blindness. Other projects include trying to control novel avatars with extra limbs, seemingly to examine homuncular flexibility.

Of course, the effects of VR over a long period of time are still being studied and evaluated. In particular, Samsung’s Gear VR comes with a lengthy disclaimer and is not recommended for children under thirteen. As Future of You shares, the company Lumos Labs falsely claimed its games could ‘delay cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s and dementia’ and the Federal Trade Commission had them pay £2million in partial customer refunds. Still, even with these important considerations, long-term effects, and ethical complications to smooth out, it’s quite clear the use of virtual reality has a real capacity to inspire people, and improve their standard of living.

Content modified from: Wisdom Pills

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