Virtual Reality for Positive Societal Impact

Our mission is to use fully immersive virtual reality to change attitudes and behaviors to help solve large societal problems, beginning with health and wellness starting first by attacking pain and anxiety with digital, non-pharmacological solutions. However, our vision for VR is much broader in its role to create a positive impact on society.

How would you feel if you could visit the Himalayas, climb Mt. Everest, and swim in the Pacific Ocean all in one day, all without leaving your living room? Sound impossible? Until recently, it was. Now, however, with the development of virtual reality technology, adventures like these will be at your fingertips before you know it!

However, while these are exciting uses of virtual reality, this technology also has the potential to be valuable in ways besides gaming and entertainment.

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality (VR) describes a tool that allows people to interact with a virtual environment. Individuals can experience virtual reality with a desktop computer or, for a more immersive experience, users can wear a small headset. VR has been shown to have many valuable uses, but its education potential offers a particularly key benefit.

Applied VR

Our company, Applied VR, focuses on the ways that virtual reality can be used in the health care realm. We have found that this technology is capable of reducing anxiety and helping patients manage pain after surgery. However, after finding such promising results, we became interested in seeing how we can use VR in other domains to spread the positive outcomes.

The purpose of this blog series is to discuss the many areas where virtual reality can be useful: from education to job training to social skills development, we will cover it all in this blog. Check back regularly to learn about all of the ways that virtual reality can improve your life!

VR for Pain Management

Our first area of focus is VR for pain and anxiety management, which has over two decades of research behind it. Medical researchers have effectively used immersive virtual reality (meaning 3D, typically interactive digital environments projected through a headset that fully blocks out other visual stimuli) as an analgesic, anxiety reducer, and distraction intervention for patients undergoing painful and tedious medical treatments such as chemotherapy or burn wound care.

Research has amply shown that distraction — whether with video games, books, or other activities — makes medical treatments easier to handle and more enjoyable for patients. But immersive VR also has the benefit of causing patients to underestimate the length of time spent in treatment, and may be more effective at reducing anxiety and the sensation of pain than other, less fully immersive, methods of distraction.

There is some evidence to suggest (and many successful studies done) that indicate this type of distraction is effective with children, who are likely to be highly accepting of, and engaged with, interactive digital technologies. “Presence,” or level of engagement in the virtual world, significantly increases the strength of analgesic and anxiety-reducing effects.

Read about AppliedVR’s preliminary research using VR to reduce pain at Cedars-Sinai, as well as our other VR research and white papers on our website.