The use cases of virtual reality (VR) expand each day. It never fails to amaze me how powerful and versatile the medium is.
Here are just some examples of how this immersive medium is being put to good use.
Inspired by the bravery and courage of the incredible children fighting cancer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, VR for Good, Facebook, and St. Jude came together to create a VR experience that celebrates the real stories of survivors of childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Created by BBDO and developed by Flight School, St. Jude Hall of Heroes is intended to help raise donations by giving donors the chance to see where their money goes and the people that it helps. The project uses VR as a storytelling and empathy machine.
The experience is set on floating islands, each island has towering statues (heroism in battle is traditionally marked with a statue) that represent St. Jude patients and their stories. Users can walk up to these statues and hear from the patient about his or her fight against illness.
The experience will be coming to the Oculus platform in early 2020, so keep your eyes peeled on the Oculus Store.
Relieving Pain During Childbirth
A small study has suggested that expectant mothers who use a calming virtual reality experience during labor could see their pain levels reduced. In a half-hour test conducted by Dr. Melissa Wong, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, participants were asked to score the pain level of their contractions on a scale of 1-10. Those who used the VR headsets with the ‘Labor Bliss’ visualization for up to 30 minutes during contractions reported an average reduction in pain of 0.52, whereas those who didn’t wear the headsets experienced a pain increase of 0.58.
While this is a small study, it does pave the way for offering the technology as an alternative to other pain relievers during childbirth.
Training For High-Risk Situations
Doctors and nurses in the emergency room (ER) work in a high pressure, high-stress environment, which sometimes involves making critical decisions. These emergency, low frequency, high stakes procedures are “life or death” cases and require a highly-skilled, highly experienced doctor. However, because of their relative rarity, the expertise needed is difficult to acquire.
Medical professionals have traditionally trained on mannequins and cadavers, however, this method of training cannot fully replicate the other pressures that come into play in a real emergency. Two doctors from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) teamed up with AiSolve and Bioflight VR to address this issue, by creating a virtual trauma room that more accurately represents how real-life emergencies may play out.
Within the experience, doctors are debriefed by the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) on the patient’s condition, then they have to check vital signs, assess medication and carry out the best course of action. This is all done under a time constraint—as with a real emergency—so it requires doctors to focus and keep calm under pressure. This training tool enables trainee doctors to prepare for the real thing, without the fear of failure and its consequences.
Educating on Racial Bias
REM5, a virtual reality Lab in St Louis Park, Minnesota is using the power of immersive technology to allow students, teachers, artists, and community groups explore subjects such as racial and gender bias.
Amir Berenjian, the Co-Founder of REM5, explained, "We want to use virtual reality for good. We don't ever want to view VR as a solution, but rather as a tool for this work. The real work comes when the headset comes off."
As part of diversity and inclusion training, REM5 put around 800 Cargill employees through the New York Times 360-degree video documentary, ‘Traveling While Black’. The documentary gives users an immersive experience on the challenges black people in America still face to this day. Viewers are taken on an emotional journey where they meet various African Americans and hear their first-hand experiences with racism, told through interviews and poetic cinematic recreations.
Feedback from users has been very encouraging, with many noting how much more impactful it is to experience a documentary in 360-degrees, rather than simply watching it on a TV screen.
Breaking Barriers In The Transgender Community
Authentically Us--the first documentary VR series from Facebook and Oculus--allows viewers to step into the lives of three transgender activists who are smashing glass ceilings and taking action to make communities safer for LGBTQ+ people everywhere. Users follow Aiden Crawford, Shannon Scott, and Acton Seibel in a 360-degree video as they campaign to change legislation, raise awareness, and challenge politics.
Over three episodes, viewers come face to face with the everyday challenges a transgender person faces to live free and equal, through the viewpoints of three transgender identities: transmasculine, transfeminine and gender non-binary.
Authentically Us has, at its core, a powerful message: those who identify outside of the gender binary are everyday people who have always been a part of our communities.