Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Patients perceptions of virtual reality therapy in the management of chronic cancer pain

We conducted two mini focus groups addressing the topics of participants’ experiences and perceptions of the use of VR in August, 2018 and March, 2019.  The results from the focus groups have now been published.

Key Takeaways:

  • We found five major thematic categories and 23 sub-categories emerged in the analysis process reflecting the participants’ narrative.
  • Similar to other research, we found mixed results in the use of adjunctive VR therapy to manage chronic cancer pain, although a majority of respondents found it to be beneficial.
  • Our results confirm that pain management is a highly complex and individualized process. For maximum efficacy, it is recommended that future designs of VR interventions engage pain patients in the design process to ensure maximum efficacy of experiences to with individuals’ preferences.

The article is published in an open-access journal and is available for your viewing here:

We hope you enjoy the article!

Presentation – VR for Pain and Health Applications

Back in November, 2017, Dr. Bernie Garrett gave a presentation at the Uniquely UBC: Good for You Games event. Participants were also able to test out the VR environments the research team has prepared for the event.

For more information about this event, including a podcast, slides, and photos, click here:

Happy New Year!

Apple to Support VR/AR

MacOS users can expect VR support on Mac soon!

Tech giant Apple has announced that it will be supporting external graphics hardware in the next version of MacOS. Not only so, Apple is launching ARkit, a tool to help third party developers to develop AR apps for the iOS.

For more information, and for the full article, visit:


Welcome to the augmented and virtual reality health applications website. This site is designed to support and disseminate the research and development of health applications using these technologies at UBC. There are a number of projects at the university exploring the potential for these new technologies here, and we welcome contributions and membership by researchers or those with an interest in the field.

tedmedHRHoward Rose, one of our partners talks about VR and health at TedMed 2014.



Bernie Garrett
UBC School of Nursing,
August 2015