Last time I checked in on the Virtual Reality space I was looking at VR projects that were creating a positive impact on the world, and I found no shortage of material, particularly in the domain of healthcare. Daring new uses of VR are everywhere you look in the medical industry, with the market expected to grow at a CAGR of 41.2% from 2020 to 2027, reaching a value of $33.7B by 2027. This market is exploding! The strength of this expanding market is built on a foundation of concepts paving the way towards a future where VR technology is increasingly intrinsic to the medical profession, particularly when it comes to rehabilitative applications. Check out a few of the highlights below:
This very recent development comes in the form of a funding round – namely, $29 million in Series A funding for AppliedVR. AppliedVR provides virtual reality-based treatments aimed at comprehensively treating chronic pain. Combining well-established cognitive behavioral therapies with mindfulness exercises, the company’s EaseVRx solution recently became the first virtual reality (VR) prescription therapeutic to receive Breakthrough Device Designation from the FDA for treatment-resistant fibromyalgia and chronic intractable lower back pain. The company also just released results from its pivotal eight-week randomized clinical trial, finding that the EaseVRx device produced “clinically meaningful” improvement in multiple pain outcomes, and had high participant satisfaction and engagement. With this diversified set of applications and outcomes, AppliedVR is a great example of the many possibilities for medicinal VR.
This recent study examined the impact of nature versus art, examining how exposure to each creates a sense of the “sublime” in the viewer, and providing a guideline for how simulated environments should be designed for the well-being of humankind. Lofty stuff! In practice, this study (conducted by researchers at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy) compared the emotional responses of 50 people who took part in a virtual reality trial. While wearing (360-degree) VR headsets, participants were shown two performances. One was a virtual reimagining of Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” while the other screening was a modern-day realistic film of the exact same location in Provence as depicted in Van Gogh’s 1889 painting. Statistical analysis of the participants’ responses revealed that both virtual reality videos triggered those feelings of sublimity with a comparable intensity.
“It can provide guidelines for the design of simulated environments that benefit experiential medicine, as I like to call it,” says Alice Chirico, the study’s lead author. “By exposing people to environmental scenarios that have certain features. To, for example, an environment that is exceptionally spacious and in which the color green predominates, without throwing the range of colors out of balance.”
Researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas have recently demonstrated the advantages of using virtual reality to measure how people handle tasks that tax their memory. The study also aimed to assess the strategies people use to make each task easier.
“This work fills a gap in our field. Some researchers are beginning to simulate the reality of a particular everyday task or job training scenario with VR [virtual reality],” said Dr. Daniel Krawczyk, professor of psychology and holder of the Debbie and Jim Francis Chair in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “On the other end of the spectrum, researchers are interested in this very controlled type of memory task. Our study fits in between, because it’s realistic and relevant to daily life, but it’s also sufficiently controlled as a scientific study should be, with careful elevation of cognitive demand. So we’re able to learn about working memory as well as daily life.”
The study involved 42 healthy college students memorizing ingredients from a recipe list, searching a virtual kitchen to see which ingredients they already possessed, then removing those items from their mental grocery list. The simplicity and repeatability of this experiment allowed researchers to create a quantitative analysis around time-on-task, errors made, tactics employed, and the sequence of actions each participant adopted. VR created a significant advantage for data generation in this study. Per Zhengsi Chang, contributing author of the study: “We can generalize findings from this research into many situations in people’s daily activities. At the same time, we maintained a high degree of control over experiment design, replicating real circumstances more accurately than is usually possible otherwise. We can re-create whatever scenario is needed.” Researchers looking to study human behavior – take note! VR provides a uniquely controlled environment where nearly every variable is under your command.
That wraps up today’s round-up of exciting new healthcare applications VR. Feeling inspired? So are we! Reach out today for a free consultation on how we can work together on your next VR project.