New York artist Tom Christopher creates immersive street scenes for pediatric cancer patients to enjoy.
Research is ongoing in several areas into how virtual reality (VR) can help patients who are suffering from both acute and chronic pain. One such project uses interactive VR artwork to help distract paediatric cancer patients in New York.
The specially designed VR experiences came from an idea by Olivia Davis, Assistant Curator for the Montefiore Medical Center Fine Art Program and Collection who approached artist Tom Christopher to create a VR experience that would let the young patients walk into a painting.
Christopher is known for his expressionist approach to depicting urban life, and Davis thought he would be a good choice to create something that was simultaneously familiar and magical. The works don’t start out in VR, instead Christopher spends some time observing and sketching what he sees in the streets of a the Bronx before transforming the sketches into VR sculptures using Google’s Tilt Brush.
“With the advent of new technologies and the influence on younger generations, we saw that we needed to unite art and technology in hopes of enhancing the healing process,” said Davis. “We quickly realized that the power of this technology was stronger than we anticipated and Tom was able to create a unique, community-oriented work of art that is so much more meaningful than generic VR games on the market.”
“The Virtual Reality Fine Art Program at Montefiore seeks to diminish anxiety, pain and opioid addiction through stimulus-rich and curated artistic environments.” Davis continued, “These experiences will serve as ‘immersive analgesics’ allowing physicians to treat their patients more effectively by improving patient’s health and hospital experiences and reducing reliance on pain medication, especially opioids.” Davis said.
Davis went on to say that the successful collaboration means that there are plans to expanding the work in using fine art and technology to ease pain into new areas to help other patients such as the paediatric sickle cell, Hematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant patients.