Medical patients are often hospital/hospice/home bound due to immobility (hip fractures, ataxia,…); contagion (quarantine and isolation); treatment regimen (chemotherapy, rehabilitation, …); or old age (frailty, muscle weakness, imbalance,…). The suffering, depression, isolation and poor quality of life associated with these circumstances are exacerbated by being forced to miss important family and life events such as: births, christenings, birthdays, graduations, performances, weddings, funerals, etc.
This project aims to address this problem by providing virtual patient transport and attendance as an alternative when real attendance is impossible. The main aims of this preliminary research project are:
- To evaluate the logistical feasibility, practice utility, psychological benefit and the financial cost of providing VR ‘A10D’ services.
- To mitigate any unanticipated negative consequences, both physical (motion sickness, headaches, spatial disorientation,…), and psychological (exacerbated sense of homesickness, neglect, etc.)
- To evaluate the commercial viability, and self-sustainability of extending the VR ‘A10D’ service to additional hospitals/hospices/homes etc. by charging for equipment hire on a non-profit basis.
To recruit participant we will post flyers on notice boards at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and our RPA team members will disseminate news through the hospital electronic communication channels. We expect that demand for the service will spread through the wards etc. as soon as participants are observed by others doctors, nurses, patient and families. We will obviously follow the appropriate ethical procedures regarding HREC approval and patient consent. When a patient is at risk of missing an important family or life event and we are contacted by a friend or family member, we will meet with them when they are visiting the patient, lend them one of the 360° 3D cameras and instruct them on its operation (place the camera on a tripod in a good location and press one button to start/stop recording). We will then meet them again on their next visit (or arrange return postage), recover the camera, process the videos, transfer them to the smart phone, and take the phone/VR headset to the patient. We will evaluate the patient/family experience, feedback and outcome measures using questionnaires implemented on a convenient touch screen tablet and publish the results in a medical or a virtual reality journal.
In this project we will use the first affordable and accessible solutions for recording and viewing truly immersive events and experiences shown above. The VUZE camera is the first consumer version of this recording technology that has previously only been available with expensive multiple camera ‘rigs’ costing at least $30k. The impressive specifications for this compact camera (http://vuze.camera/product/) include 4K stereoscopic panoramic videos at 30fps using 8 wide angle lenses and sensor arranged in stereo pairs, and 4 microphones for localised audio.
Files recorded to SD card are transferred to a desktop PC / laptop and ‘stitched’ into seamless omnidirectional stereoscopic scene videos with localised audio. The finished scenes are then transferred to the smart phone (Samsung Galaxy S7) which is inserted into a portable virtual reality headset (Samsung Gear VR) for viewing with head tracking for an immersive and compelling experience.
BROADER STRATEGIC GOALS
Our Broader Strategic goals include:
- To scale up the project to additional hospitals, hospices, homes, etc. for maximum, significant, tangible and immediate befits to patients, their families’, the public health system in general and potentially for the nation and global community.
- To raise the profile of the School of Psychology – VR OpenLAB to attract support from the University of Sydney and competitive grant bodies such as the ARC and NHMRC.
- To extend the school’s VR relevant research publication portfolio for evidence of productivity and social impact that would support philanthropic support from individuals interested in health and aged care.
PARTNERS OF THIS PROJECT
A decision on the Sydney Local Health District (SLHD) funding contribution to this project has been made on Friday 23 June 2017. The School of Psychology will also financially support this project.