Virtual Reality Offers Potential Breakthrough in Preventative Care

VRFocus covers all news relating to virtual reality (VR) not just videogames. Recent articles include, VR for medical training and VR for the treatment of phobias. These are just a couple of stories on how VR is being used to help people rather than just entertain. Another use VRFocus has found VR being possibly used for is preventative care.

Imagine watching an VR avatar of yourself drinking sugary drinks, or eating fast-food, which is then sped up to show in two minutes the course of two years worth of consumption on your body.

This is what researchers at Georgia University are trialling, as they have found so far that a VR simulation portraits a stronger message than traditional leaflets. The Wall Street Journal spoke with Grace Ahn, an assistant professor in advertising who leads Georgia’s VR research efforts. Ms Ahn explains “We’ve found virtual reality to be much more effective than pamphlets or videos at getting the message across and prompting behaviour change. The brain experiences and processes a virtual-reality scenario in the same way it does a real experience, watching a video, in contrast, creates some cognitive distance between the viewer and the subject.”

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Ms Ahn goes on to say, “Virtual-reality researchers have shown that letting people experience the future today makes them more likely to change present-day behaviours. That makes virtual reality a good fit for preventive health care. There’s such a big temporal gap between what you do now and what happens to your health further on,”

But this way of treating patients does come with a hefty price tag, a single two- to five-minute scenario—the template into which individual avatars are introduced—is about $150,000. But the equipment required to run the simulations is far cheaper as they can run on smartphones using a VR app and a Google Cardboard head-mounted display (HMD).

VRFocus will be following any more updates to do with VR in healthcare in the future.