One Caring Team testing virtual reality for dementia and depression treatment, relief

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”250″ /]A San Francisco-based company, One Caring Team, is visiting Bay Area seniors with a treatment that is also a treat–virtual reality headsets that recreate a beach or other relaxing environment. VR has been used with Microsoft Kinect in game-playing in assisted living communities, but the physician-founder Sonya Kim is seeking to give a break most to those older people with dementia or depression. They no longer can travel and their world has grown very small. VR gives them an opportunity to hear and see things they haven’t in a long time, if ever. Versions being tested have both a VR picture, narration on screen and audio; versions for dementia patients skip written ‘bubbles’. The point is to have the clients/patients feel safe, relaxed and welcomed. Some of the results have been that patients start to speak, interact with the pictures intuitively and be more alert, with lasting effects between VR visits. Formal studies have been done in other settings for pain management and for rehab, but this is a new company and concept. One problem is cost: $850 for each Samsung Gear VR headset plus the Galaxy smartphone, but if anything help on VR and social funding is easy to find the Bay Area; founder of the Virtual World Society, the University of Washington’s virtual interface pioneer Dr. Tom Furness, is now One Caring Team’s acting chief technology officer. Washington Post, NPR, (Photo from One Caring Team via NPR)

A virtual reality version of dementia

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”175″ /]The Virtual Dementia Experience simulates for caregivers and other medical professionals the visual distortions typically suffered by those with dementia. Designed by four graduates of Australia’s Swinburne University, it was built on the Unreal Game Engine to run on Microsoft Kinect or Oculus Rift VR. VDE recently won the World Citizenship Award at Microsoft’s Imagine Cup. It is is being developed commercially by Swinburne spin-off company Opaque Multimedia. (It would have been neat to have a video simulation on the website.) It reminds this Editor of a training developed by Second Wind Dreams which more fully simulates the visual, hearing, perceptual and behavioral effects of dementia to heighten sensitivity among caregivers.  Gizmag

Redesign of Kinect to detect, prevent Parkinson’s freezing of gait (UK)

Two researchers at London’s Brunel University have repurposed a common Microsoft Kinect game controller to detect and help prevent the freezing of gait (FOG) that is a common result of Parkinson’s disease. FOG strikes without warning–the muscles freeze and the sufferer generally falls. To both detect falls and help prevent them, the Brunel researchers mounted a laser projector on the ceiling controlled by the Kinect. If a fall happens, it initiates a video conference call to assist the person. The prevention comes in with projecting visual cues–lines ahead on the floor, which has been found to help unfreeze the muscles. According to the Brunel release, it has passed proof of concept stage and is moving to patient trials. The further proof will be if this can scale. Brunel University News

Telehealth saves $55 million in the Basque Country

Faced with an aging population (18 percent over 65) and a failing Spanish economy, the Basque Country Health System is testing telehealth systems to keep its older population healthier and out of the hospital (23 percent are readmitted to hospital). The Accenture-developed TEKI is based on a Microsoft Kinect and connects to a heart rate monitor, pulse oximeter and a spirometer, using the Kinect to evaluate their mobility and provide prescribed exercise therapy as part of rehabilitation. TEKI is part of an Accenture-developed ‘Multi-channel Health Service Center’ that provides a variety of counseling and education services to the local older adult population. The Kinect is also used as a telemedicine platform to communicate with the patients in the study. Results achieved by the program:$55 million saving in Year 1 through eliminating 52,000 hospital visits, a 7 percent cost reduction per patient. CNBC/Philips feature, MedCityNews, video of Osakidetza Hospital staff using TEKI with respiratory patients, Accenture paper.