If you’re stuck in hospital, life is probably sucking right now. There is however a way to escape your medical situation and that is with virtual reality. Health Insurance company Medibank has created a VR experience called ‘JOY’ to deliver just that, joy to patients through Google’s new Daydream VR platform.
The experience transports patients to a virtual world of comfort and connection, where they join a group of people and a friendly dog around a campfire in a lush Aussie landscape. The patient is invited to select from a series of stories, which one of the attendees read to the group.
While most of us experience VR, to know the whole thing was entirely designed in 3D using Google Tilt Brush, it speaks volumes about the possibilities. Understanding that patient mobility may be restricted, the experience has been specifically designed to be used lying down in a bed, with limited interaction with the controller required.
According to Medibank research, most hospital patients suffer from loneliness, but many feel too unwell to do something about it. Loneliness has also been found to contribute to or worsen several psychological and physiological conditions.
Every aspect of the experience has been scientifically created to incorporate qualities which are known to better health and alleviate feelings of social isolation in hospital patients. Examples below, however Sami can speak about numerous other elements:
- Storytelling around a campfire: Historically, campfires have provided a means of social connection, and research has indicated that viewing and listening to the sound of a fire decreases arterial blood pressure, suggesting a relaxation response. Research has also shown bibliotherapy — which is the use of books as a form of treatment — may also be effective in reducing anxiety.
- A sleepy dog: Interacting with friendly animals has been shown to offer numerous health benefits, including reducing feelings of social isolation, improving depressive symptoms, and lowering heart rate and blood pressure.
- A nature scene rich in plants and wildlife: Compared to man-made environments, studies show exposure to natural landscapes may have direct, positive impacts on health and mood. Additionally, nature sounds have been found to help relieve feelings of stress and activate the parasympathetic nervous system.