Dementia/ Cognitive Impairement

Immersive VR technology is increasingly present in healthcare, but its use as therapy for elderly and the cognitively impaired is a novel solution for an old problem, where innovation, including breakthrough discoveries, is badly needed. Unlike existing interventions like medications, physical barriers/locks, tracking devices, the primary aim of VR therapy is to relax and distract by engaging with immersive simulated environments in meaningful and satisfying ways. We want to create a model for introducing immersive VR as a therapy for people living with cognitive impairment with the goals to decrease depression, anxiety, and the feeling of loneliness; to reduce wandering incidents and injuries; and to increase feelings of independence, personhood, and happiness, and stimulate cognitive health by participation in social activities. Moreover, we hope to also see a reduction in anti-psychotic and sedative use.

Radiation Oncology

We are working with clinical and educational experts at Princess Margaret Hospital, to produce VR films that help prepare patients (already facing incredible stress and difficulty), against the fears and unknowns of radiation treatment. By being pre-exposed virtually to the sights, sounds, atmosphere, and feelings they will encounter during the first radiation treatment, patients learn to manage their stress and anxiety vis-a-vis the unknown. We plan to create both 360-VR and augmented reality (AR) videos to explain how radiation treatment works on their bodies, how rays precisely target malignant cells while leaving other nearby cells unharmed, and what side effects patients might expect. We’re also looking at longer term goals, such as enabling patients to experience immersive VR films while having the treatment, thus distracting them and taking them away from the emotional and tense experience.

Mental Health and Addictions

VR has already been successfully used as a means of phobia and post-traumatic stress disorder treatment. Now we are looking into evaluating VR’s benefits to help de-escalate those about to go into crisis, by providing them with a calming “safe space”, using VR as a means to “ground” patients before group therapy sessions (where anxiety from sharing personal issues represents a big impediment), to help create shared experiences among group members, and simply as an escape from the isolation patients feel during their treatment.

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