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Gaming technology enters aged care arena


Virtual reality technology is offering new opportunities for dementia patients, the aged and those with low vision.

Two innovative applications of immersive technology were highlighted this month, including a wearable device that allows people with low vision to see clearly, and a VR experience that enables the aged to experience simulated “bucket list” items.

US vision scientist Frank Werblin with his IrisVision low vision aid.

In Australia for a series of Vision Australia events, US vision scientist Professor Frank Werblin demonstrated his IrisVision technology, which uses a Samsung smart phone and virtual reality headset originally designed for gaming to help people with conditions like macular degeneration see clearly.

It means people with low vision can do things many others take for granted, such as seeing loved ones’ faces, watching TV, reading books or enjoying art, he said.

“This is really life-changing for people and one of the reasons for that is because it restores the ability to see people, to see expressions and faces, to be able to go to a football game, or a theatre, or find things of the supermarket shelf,” Professor Werblin said.

“You lose all of this with low vision and it makes you socially isolated and I think this brings back vision but it also brings back life to people with low vision.”

Meanwhile, another VR program launched jointly by Samsung and Uniting is helping aged care residents fulfil unlived dreams through immersive reality.

Samsung is visiting five Uniting aged care facilities in NSW and the ACT to pilot the technology. A spokesman told Community Care Review Uniting would consider extending the  program to home care if the pilot was successful.

Residents are able to select an experience from their “bucket list” and Samsung sources virtual reality so they can experience it.

Requests for immersive experiences have so far included visiting Vancouver, standing under Redwood trees and visiting Space.

The program is designed to investigate how VR can reduce isolation and support social integration for aged care and dementia patients.

In another Australian-first trial of innovative technology, WA-based provider Silver Chain will use “holographic doctors” to visit patients in their homes.

The trial, launched by Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt earlier this month, uses Enhanced Medical Mixed Reality technology to create a virtual clinic that links healthcare professionals to doctors and data through holograms and video conferencing while they are visiting clients’ homes.

IrisVision kits are available in Australia through Vision Australia.

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