Immersive Virtual Reality not only changes perceptions, but it also changes your thought process, your behavior and your feelings. It is all because of the virtual environment that you find yourself in Virtual Reality. You perceive being physically present in a virtual environment, and this is what is so exciting about it. Owing to this perception, Virtual Reality is being extensively used to treat depression, paranoia, autism, PTSD, pain relief as well as for recovery from paralysis. Virtual Reality is indeed bringing about a positive change in life.
Foster Care & Adoption
VR is being used with an aim to enhance adoption and foster care. Cornerstone Partnership, a social enterprise, is harnessing VR to bring a change in adoption and foster care services. It can lead to an improvement in decision making regarding children’s emotions, potential triggers of their emotional breakdowns, understanding of trauma etc. This can help policymakers in designing effective policies and implementing promising solutions too. So, VR can promote empathy and bring about a positive vibe in relationships between adults and children. This has the potential to create better bonding and in turn less family breakdowns.
Cornerstone has also shown that with the help of VR, people engaged in various care giving services, including parents, can quickly and deeply develop an understanding of the effect of issues like neglect and domestic abuse on children. Conventional learning programmes can’t deliver such deep learning.
VR is also helping disabled musicians get into mainstream music making. Performance Without Barriers, a research group, is helping disabled musicians accomplish their dream of real music making since 2015. The group has designed new interfaces through which disabled musicians can compose music and perform independently. The team in this research group comprises of sonic arts researchers, electronic engineers, content designers, computer scientists, and a soloist ensemble. They are collaborating with Zack Zinstner, a US based software developer, who is known for building a Virtual Realty musical instrument called EXA. EXA is known as the Infinite Instrument. What the research group has done is to customise this instrument, which was designed for able-bodied musicians, in accordance with the divergent mobility needs of disabled musicians. Already, one musician suffering from cerebral palsy has benefited from this endeavour of Performance Without Barriers. Even a blind performer has benefited from this research. They have enabled incapacitated musicians to record, compose and perform musical episodes using customised instruments which have been designed according to the mobility needs and abilities of disabled musicians in mind.
VR can be helpful in the medical training of surgeons too. It can help surgeons gain insightful experience about procedures to be carried out in an Operating Room. With the help of Virtual Reality, newbie surgeons can practice on plastic models and watch experienced surgeons perform surgeries. Reading textbooks can surely help but to a limited degree. The surgical trainee can immerse himself in a simulated real-time procedure. This is very useful in functional areas where precious life hinges on success and failure mean death. GIBLIB is harvesting Virtual Reality to make medical training and education more effective.
The company is known for developing 4K and 360-degree medical lectures meant for medical training. However, it was based on traditional training methodology which obviously fell short of simulating the real experience. GIBLIB turned to VR to solve this problem and developed a VR app to simulate not just an operating room, but also various training methods to train physicians on various surgical nuances. Newbie doctors can now deal with unforeseen situations with more confidence and dexterity and surgeries can become safer.
In a press release, Brian Conyer, the CEO of GIBLIB, who is also the co-founder of the company, stressed on the enhanced ability of doctors to keep themselves up-to-date about procedural best practices and latest surgical techniques as these are advancing at a very fast rate. According to him, the learning process should be so designed that it bridges the knowledge gap and comes up with some kind of experiential learning to enhance surgical techniques of doctors in a universally accessible way while retaining the legitimacy of the learning process and experience.
Viarama is a social enterprise which is using VR to improve the lives of senior citizens receiving terminal care. It makes use of Google Earth VR software and HTC Vive headsets to take terminally ill patients, lying in hospices or nursing homes, on journeys which were hitherto impossible to them.
The Chief Executive of Viarama, Billy Agnew, said that the company is visiting hospices and nursing homes and helping terminally ill patients travel the world, albeit virtually. They have created situations where people can travel all the way back to places where they did their national service or got married, and never thought that going to those places would be possible again. According to him, this is a emotionally moving experience for people in their death bed as well as those surrounding him. He said that when they tried it for the first time in a hospice, there were two doctors to evaluate the experience, and both of them broke down in the emotional throes that followed.
The Walk Again Project, a not-for-profit research consortium that is operating internationally, is making use of VR technology to help paraplegic people. They are helping people regain a part of their lost muscle control and sensation in lower limbs.
To this end, they are first placing patients in a VR environment, where they are taught how to use their brain activities to control their own avatar and stroll in a soccer field using that avatar. A long sleeve T-shirt has been designed for patients so that tactile feedback can be provided to their forearms for stimulating the sense of touch. Here, the arms substitute the legs and the patient’s brain is fooled into thinking that he is walking again.
As the brain picks up the thread of walking, the patient is given a customised exoskeleton with nodes on his head. These nodes pick up signals and in turn relay them to a computer that is placed in the backpack of the exoskeleton. As the patient gets into walking mode, the computer activates the exoskeleton. It has been found that patients taking a walk in the exoskeleton for an hour a day could eventually stimulate their nerves to communicate with the brain and revive some of the normal sensitivity and therefore movement.
An article in Scientific Reports alludes to a study where eight patients participating in such a VR simulation regained some kind of motor control and therefore regained some movement. A 32-year-old woman, who had been suffering from paralysis for 13 long years, had been a participant of this study. By the end of the study the woman could move her legs without any support.
All these do exhibit the power of VR, and it is really making a difference in the lives of people.
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