Experience Seven Minutes of Empathy With Medical Project We Are Alfred

Imagine the frustrations of elderly patients trying to understand medical diagnosis

When it comes to medical virtual reality (VR), although there are developments being made there is often a clinical feel to the applications, benefitting the quality of the medical research or operations. A group from the University of Illinois Chicago has created an interactive VR project to highlight how elderly patients feel during diagnosis, called We Are Alfred.

The aim of the project is to educate medical students in anticipation of a growth of elderly people in the US. Using an Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 (DK2) and a Leap Motion hand tracking device, students become Alfred, a 78-year-old patient going through cognitive diagnosis. There are five scenes that the viewer can experience, all of which are realistic to what a regular elderly patient would experience, including Happy Birthday Song, Day Dream, Wine Spill, Waiting Room, Taking the Cognitive Test, and Follow Up With the Doctor.

we are alfred

The experience is far from advancing medicine in itself, but puts emphasis on the humanitarian approach to medicine, as the user will experience sight and hearing loss to experience the frustrations of what Alfred might experience. “The project is focusing on comfort,” said Eric Swirsky, clinical assistant professor of biomedical and health information sciences and a faculty adviser for the project. “It’s not curing, it’s not curative, it’s not even treatment-oriented. It’s about comforting and understanding where the patient is so that you can be with him.”

“[Interactive cinema] is a kind of marriage of directing for film and directing for theater because you’re directing a 360-degree space where the user has the freedom to look wherever they want,” said the film’s director, Ryan Lebar, a student collaborator from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
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