Going through surgery or a medical procedure can be an unpleasant or scary experience. What if we can distract patients or help them relax through Virtual Reality software?
XR Health specializes in using VR in clinical processes and were the first to have this technology approved by the FDA. Their healthcare software can be used for medical treatment, mental wellbeing, rehabilitation and physiological therapy.
In 2018 and 2019, they worked with PreviewLabs to prototype VR distraction applications to be used in a medical context. Because of our rapid prototyping efforts, the XR Health team in Tel Aviv could focus on building tried and tested systems and technologies.
PreviewLabs team members discussing technical details of the ‘World Explorer’ prototype in which the player can explore the world through panoramic 360 degree pictures from Google Street View.
Distraction in Healthcare
In healthcare, both active and passive distraction play an important role. Often mentioned in relation to treatment with children, distraction can help patients tolerate more discomfort and pain, for example during surgery with local anesthesia.
Active distraction involves engaging the patient directly, for example with a game. Passive distraction requires no engagement from the patient and can be as simple as some background music or a movie.
Both types of distraction can be used to help patients relax and take their minds off their medical procedure. Studies indicate that active distraction is the most effective, while passive distraction is better than no distraction at all.
1. Video on Demand in VR
One of the very first projects we did with XR Health in 2017 was a video on demand platform in VR. The prototype was designed for a Windows Mixed Reality Device to allow patients to enter a virtual 360° environment during surgery. Here they can watch video content on a virtual screen and get some additional interface options like a clock and messages.
Because patients typically have to remain still during a procedure, only a doctor or medical staff can control the selected video through a separate user interface (UI) on a desktop. Through this UI, they also are able to send messages and updates to the patient.
In a fully functional version, there would be a variety of categories for the patient to select videos from, such as cartoons, TED Talks, music shows, and nature documentaries. However, for the first iteration of the prototype we limited the choices to four predetermined videos.
A video created by XR Health based on the prototype. They used this to pitch the concept of video on demand delivered through a VR headset to help distract patients.
2. Just Relax: A Meditative Distraction Experience in VR
With this next prototype, XR Health planned to leverage VR as a tool to relax patients and offer them more comfort. Just Relax allows them to be in another place mentally while they are undergoing unpleasant treatments like receiving chemotherapy through an IV.
With Just Relax they can be in a more pleasant virtual environment like a beach or a lake. To fully immerse patients into these environments and make them more life-like, we implemented dynamic assets like birds and animations.
For this prototype, we initially worked with a selection of three virtual environments. In later iterations, we collaborated closely with the XR Health team to integrate high quality 360° videos which they rendered in Unreal Engine and we implemented as stereoscopic images in the prototype through Unity.
3. Game On: Active Distraction Through Gameplay in VR
Where Just Relax takes a more passive approach to distraction, VRReliever Game On is the active alternative. This prototype allows the patient to play a video game in VR by moving their head.
Through active distraction in VR, more people would be able to tolerate a local sedation as it actively pulls away their attention from the operation.
Our founder Bernard walking you through the gameplay of the Ships from Outer Space and Black Hole Blowout game concepts, prototyped for active distraction of patients.
4. VRReliever: Monitoring Multiple VR-users From a Tablet
As XR Health’s vision for their company and their services became more clear, they decided to integrate multiple VR distraction applications into a centralized portal. When we prototyped this portal, it had a patient-facing side, and a healthcare professional interface which could be controlled through a tablet.
We prototyped this portal by combining the previously mentioned prototypes into one integrated solution. We allow users to connect multiple VR devices at once to the professional portal, so that a doctor or nurse can keep an overview over multiple patients being treated simultaneously through one central application.
The idea of bringing the prototypes together into a portal was a logical step towards the current product offering of XR Health.
Through the tablet, someone can observe multiple users in VR and send them messages regarding the status of the ongoing procedure.
Today, XR Health’s treatments combine the knowledge and guidance of healthcare professionals with VR technology. Patients receive a VR headset when they start their treatment and work with a licensed therapist to guide them through the process.
These prototypes are only a selection of projects we did with XR Health over the past decade. Keep an eye on our blog for more details on other projects we did with this client.
A Prototype For Your Healthcare Project?
At Previewlabs, we have leveraged the advantages of prototyping in healthcare before. Take a look at these seven prototypes for health research, for example. Or this prototype that helps treat anxiety. Feel free to get in touch and see how we can support you for your healthcare-related prototyping needs.
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The following research paper appeared, using some of the prototypes we developed for XR Health:
Virtual reality immersion compared to monitored anesthesia care for hand surgery: A randomized controlled trial