Virtual reality project offers distraction therapy for chemotherapy patients

virtual reality
Source: Samsung

Sydney based virtual reality studio Start VR has collaborated with Samsung Australia and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse to develop an initiative to supply Samsung virtual reality (VR) technology to help alleviate stress for diagnosed oncology patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

Samsung says the project showcases the potential for VR to be used as a tool to help ease psychological stress and provide a form of “distraction therapy” during typically arduous chemotherapy treatments.

Patients were provided with Samsung Gear VR headsets and the option to select an experience either from the Gear VR store or Start VR’s catalogue of content. Experiences ranged from transporting patients to a relaxing travel destination, plunging off an airplane in a skydiving stimulating experience, taking a boat ride through the Sydney Harbour, snorkeling through sparkling blue waters and petting Koalas at a zoo.

The initiative was spearheaded by Start VR’s Head of Content Martin Taylor, who collaborated with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Samsung Australia to bring the partnership to life.

“We wanted to determine if VR had the potential to change people’s outlook on their current environment and we felt that a healthcare setting, where people sit and wait for periods of time, worried about unknown outcomes would be the right place to start,” Taylor said. “Though after months of theory and planning, the true reward was meeting these incredible patients and seeing them experience instant joy through the power of VR.”

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse embraced virtual reality as a treatment support option for their patients and has clinical staff guiding and supervising to ensure patient safety, according to Complementary Therapy director Michael Marthick.

“Allowing patients to escape the experience of chemotherapy gives them a bit of space to forget what’s going on,” he said. “In settings such as before surgery, patients are even more anxious. This gives them a distraction and allows them to keep their spirits up. Wellness isn’t just about the physical side of things, it’s also about mental wellbeing.”

Martin Brown, head of Alliances and Enterprise Mobility, Samsung Electronics Australia said the collaboration with Start VR and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse “breaks new ground in the way the immersive nature of our virtual reality platform can be applied to a healthcare environment” and is “critically important to developing tangible ways for our technology to benefit organizations across a wide range of sectors.”

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