New dementia training tool

The team behind Alzheimer’s Australia Vic’s high-tech dementia learning centre has picked up first prize at a technology world cup for students in recognition of the latest and portable iteration of the virtual reality training program.

Team Virtual Dementia Experience_Imagine Cup Winners _2015
Opaque Multimedia (from left): Norman Wang, Liam McGuire, James Bonner and Chris Mackenzie.

The team behind Alzheimer’s Australia Vic’s high-tech dementia learning centre has picked up first prize and $50,000 at a technology world cup for students in recognition of the latest iteration of its ground-breaking virtual reality training program.

Opaque Multimedia won in the citizenship category of Microsoft’s 2015 Imagine Cup for the Virtual Dementia Experience (VDE), an experiential program developed for Alzheimer’s Australia Vic to deliver training to aged care workers.

The VDE, which was developed in 2013 and used in the first workshop in March 2014, takes the participants through a multi-sensory simulation using light, sound, colour and visual content projected onto a large screen to create a virtual reality experience of dementia.

Opaque Multimedia’s James Bonner said the latest and winning iteration was a shrunk down version that used a virtual reality headset rather than the giant projector wall.

“Instead of being a $60,000 facility it is now a $2,000 piece of hardware where you can get 20 of them for the same price and put them in the back of a station wagon and put them in any aged care facility in Australia,” Mr Bonner told Technology Reivew.

In addition to the $50,000 prize money, which will go toward further development, Mr Bonner said winning the Imagine Cup had given them an international focus and the opportunity to meet with marketers, distributors, venture capitalists and others that could help advance availability of the Virtual Dementia Experience.

“We have had an enormous amount of interest in the past few months. The question on everyone’s lips is does it extend to anyone outside of dementia, he said, adding that they were in talks with people interested in doing it for other medical conditions.

Portable learning tool

Alzheimer’s Australia Vic Business Development manager Tanya Petrovich said the virtual reality headset, known Oculus goggles, meant their teaching tool was now portable.

“We can take it on the road certainly around Australia but it also makes it internationally available. It can be a product that basically downloaded and used wherever you are,” Ms Petrovich told Technology Review.

Since the Imagine Cup, she said they have had interest from the UK, US and Holland among other places.

Ms Petrovich said the VDE in the Oculus goggles was still at the prototype stage and was undergoing testing to further develop it for use in training.

“When it is finished it will be a standalone product that people can experience. It is using the technology in a way that it hasn’t been used before,” she said.

Ms Petrovich said a recent evaluation by Swinburne University of the VDE as a teaching tool showed it was effective in developing empathy.

“This is a new way of connecting with people; engaging with people and getting them to have an empathy for the person living with dementia.”

The new device will be available for training from early 2016, she said.

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Tags: alzheimers-australia-vic, news-tr-3, opaque-multimedia, virtual-dementia-experience,

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