Author Archives: gordon tao

VR for Chronic Cancer Pain Control – Results Summary

We’re thrilled to share the results of our years-long clinical trial in using immersive multimedia as an adjunctive measure for managing chronic cancer pain. This journey has been one of dedication, persistence, and teamwork, and today marks a significant milestone. Our goal was to empower people living with and beyond cancer with new tools that suit their needs and we’re proud to present the culmination of our efforts. This achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the collaboration of researchers, clinicians, and participants who shared our vision.

As we release these results, we look forward to the positive impact they may have in supporting further cancer care and chronic pain research. The final journal report has now been published in BMC Digital Health and is available here, and a lay-person summary is provided below.

We would like to formally thank the John & Lotte Hecht Foundation for their support of this work.

Immersive virtual reality health games: a narrative review of game design

Game design plays a central role in games for health. We reviewed literature presenting head-mounted display VR games specifically designed as health applications and looked at how game design has been implemented and discussed in research.

Key Takeaways:

  • Most address health contexts related to physical exercise, motor rehabilitation, and pain
  • Mechanics are typically based on obstacles, challenges, and extrinsic reward systems
  • Narrative experiences and non-physical exercise interventions were less common
  • Overall discourse on game design lags behind what’s seen in more games industry-related spaces

Find out more from our recently published article (open access) on the Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation here:

Adapting to the Pandemic Context

This year has been quite demanding in terms of adapting to new circumstances. However, it’s also been a circumstance that has seen many people adopt new technologies, from teleconference to XR apps. Here are a few interesting new XR for health applications that have been aimed at addressing pandemic-related challenges:

The Rehabilitation Robotics Lab at the University of Alberta has created an AR app to help Canadians manage mental health during COVID-19.

Virtual training applications for healthcare workers has also seen an upsurge. Here’s an example from SFU SIAT. Another has been created by Motive for PPE donning and doffing.

Certainly, there has been a new wave of papers advocating for the benefits of augmented and virtual reality applications in health during the pandemic.

Could Virtual Reality play a role in the rehabilitation after COVID-19 infection?

Telemedicine and Virtual Reality for Cognitive Rehabilitation: A Roadmap for the COVID-19 Pandemic

Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Video Games for Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health

Perhaps the widespread need to adapt with digital tools in lieu of regular in-person practice during this time will accelerate future development and adoption of a whole ecosystem of health-related XR applications.

VR for Health in the News

It’s great to see VR for health applications featured in the news again. Beyond efficacy, improving effectiveness of VR for health in practice relies on users’ willingness to adopt this technology. Normalizing the usage of VR in health with realistic expectations through news articles like this is a great way to support VR adoption.

Inside Perspective on Hospital Seclusion Rooms

Seclusion rooms are designated rooms in hospitals and schools for short-term management of disturbed or violent behaviour. Often, the patients involved suffer from psychiatric disorders or come from correctional facilities. In schools, these rooms have also been used with children with disabilities experiencing emotional distress. However, prolonged seclusion can also be a harmful experience. This Star article highlights the work of Gary Chaimowitz and his team who are using a VR simulation of seclusion rooms as a training tool to help staff understand the experience. The team also compares seclusion rooms to segregation cells in jails and prisons.

This seems like it could be a useful tool for staff and administrators who are more removed from the front-line setting. However, I’d hope anyone who has the authority to place patients in these rooms receive training involving a bit of time spent in these rooms.

VR for simulation of health conditions

Here’s another interesting application of VR from the Eurogamer article (below). If VR can be used to mimic the symptoms of certain diseases, then immersion in the lived experience of neurological and cognitive disorders may foster better empathetic understanding of those living with such conditions. This can be both an educational and a humanizing tool.

From RehabTao:

Recreational VR therapy for older adults is certainly gaining traction as the technology becomes more accessible. However, the latter two games in this article demonstrate a compelling avenue for health education. Combining symptom simulation and an emotional narrative in VR, such games can help caregivers and the wider public gain insight into some of the experiences of those living with cognitive/neurological conditions.

Eurogamer: VR has already taken people with dementia to the seaside – and now video games are exploring neurological disease itself

A VR Action Observation Based Approach to Stroke Rehabilitation

A team at USC led by Dr. Sook-Lei Liew is looking to address severe motor impairments due to stroke using VR. The REINVENT (Rehabilitation Environment using the Integration of Neuromuscular-based Virtual Enhancements for Neural Training) project aims to leverage action observation networks to facilitate neuroplastic improvements in impaired brain motor regions. The team’s system supplies augmented visual feedback and embodiment in VR based on users EEG/EMG inputs.

CNET Article

IEEE Short Paper

VR to Complement/Reduce Opioid Use

Here’s another article about the potential of VR for acute and chronic pain.

“Acute pain is a perfect match for VR,” says Hoffman. “You only need it for 20 minutes and it has drastic effects.” Chronic pain is a different, more challenging problem. Still, he thinks VR has the potential to enhance many treatments that already work. “If you say, ‘go home and meditate,’ not many patients will follow through,” Hoffman says. “But if you give them a VR system and say ‘go into this ancient world and meditate with monks,’ they’re more likely to actually do it.” VR is just a delivery method: What matters most is what the patients see and experience on the other side of the headset.