A recently introduced trial in a senior living community in Minneapolis is focusing around introducing virtual reality for the sake of health and well-being. Whilst this sounds something akin to an episode of the renowned, futuristic television series ‘Black Mirror’, this also goes to show that incredible technological advancements are being made.
However, instead of these advancements being focused around the devices solely, the trial has been put into place to see how virtual reality can work to improve the ways that we live our lives and experience the world around us.
The Study Itself
The study was overseen by both Joel Prevost — the administrator for Ebenezer’s Minneapolis campus — and his lifelong associate Chris Mangold who firstly focused on 30 senior participants within the trial. A mobile-phone based virtual reality set up was provided by the start-up company behind the study ‘Visual’. The set-up then allowed the participants to click through various scenarios and settings that they would be able to immerse themselves into.
The Minneapolis residents would have the chance to experience virtual reality through Samsung Gear VR headsets twice a week in ten minute sessions. The seniors were then questioned once a week regarding their feelings of wellness and their approach to the virtual reality simulations. The first leg of the study only lasted one month, but approximately 90% of participants noted that they were feeling more relaxed and generally happier, even after the sessions had been completed.
The Participant Response
Those involved in the study had an overall very positive response in regards to their own experiences. Even though the virtual reality simulations were limited to 360 degree videos of specific locations and landscapes, the participants seemed incredibly enthusiastic with the results and appear eager for the start-up company to work towards making the virtual reality more interactive. With the senior partakers taking such a liking to the technology and the potential that it holds over both the way we live and the improvement of general wellbeing, there’s evidently quite a demand for virtual reality to be pushed even further.
The Next Steps
With the support of the trial behind them, ‘Visual’ has now released statements saying that they are going to progress their work further to create more realistic and immersive virtual realities. They are currently looking into creating a ‘true VR experience’ where people will be able to not only interact with their surroundings, but they will also be able to communicate with others at the same time. Whilst this has generated even further interest throughout the wellness and health communities all over the world, the company has reinforced that this will evidently take a lot of further research and development. At the moment, they are working to make their current product more communicative between users within the same environments.
So, What Does This Mean?
It’s no stretch to say that technology is advancing at rather alarmingly fast rates, especially when considering how far we’ve come in the past couple of decades. However, with the use of technology to improve general wellbeing and lifestyle, there’s quite a controversial debate around the topic. On one hand, it could prove to have major benefits that transform our way of living all together, but then there’s also the argument that it’s furthering us as a society from the world that we live in. The subject poses a number of different questions as well — how far will we incorporate the technology into our daily lives, and how immersive can it truly get?
All in all, technological strides are going to prove ever useful for the science community and the advancements that it is making towards treating numerous health issues and problems. Maybe it’s worthwhile that we explore virtual reality as an alternative medical treatment.