Experiencing the struggles of Parkinson’s in VR
Health care professionals can experience the daily struggles of having Parkinson’s disease themselves, by using virtual reality. This enables them to have a better understanding of their patients. The idea of using virtual reality to provide better health care to Parkinson’s patients is a logical next step: virtual reality takes an experience to understanding, which in this case could eventually result in better health care.
The Dutch affiliate of AbbVie, a global research-based biopharmaceutical company formed in 2013 – asked us to create a VR experience about Parkinson’s disease. The goal is to raise awareness of health care professional on the daily struggles of the Parkinson’s patients.
Ir. Michiel van Wolfswinkel (Brand Manager Neurology at AbbVie): “Helping health care professionals to better understand what their patients are going through, will empower them to better connect with their patients and pay close attention to act quickly, minimizing the impact of the disease. Virtual reality is a great technology that submerges you into another world, it is an extraordinary feeling!”
We created a virtual experience that is based on the insights gathered from patients, neurologists and Parkinson’s nurses. A virtual supermarket was created, as doing groceries is a routine activity for healthy people, but often can be experienced as stressful by patients. This could make it into an activity that is likely to be avoided altogether. The experience enables users to virtually become a person with Parkinson’s disease, so that they can experience some aspects of living with the disease such as symptoms, awkward moments and responses of other people, who do not seem to understand your atypical behavior.
The responses we’ve received from health care professionals made clear that the experience is remarkable, innovative and very well made. They complemented us on involving people in this difficult matter that is Parkinson’s disease, making them more aware of the impact it has on the lives of people. Especially during the normal everyday activities, such as doing groceries.
To record the movements of virtual characters we’ve had the ability to use a motion capture suit, provided by Xsens. By using this special body suit, we were able to precisely track and register movements of a real person. Facial expression cannot be tracked by using this suit, so we had to animate these expressions afterwards, to transform it into a realistic and lively experience.