Virtual reality and the applied science of distraction

Posted on 28/10/2016


VR might be emerging from the “trough of disillusionment” to treat pain and anxiety in a clinical setting

(<a href="">Courtesy</a>

It’s not every day you see someone wearing a VR headset in a hospital. But that could be about to change.

A Swedish pharmacy chain is piloting VR headsets and their own “Happy place” app to relax patients and relieve pain through distraction. The app drops you into a virtual lakeside campsite allowing you to explore and interact with your surrounding; “IRL” a nurse injects you with your vaccination.

AppliedVR – the company behind the app have been conducting research into the effectiveness and believe that virtual reality is an effective way to distract people from short-term pain, such as injections or tattoos. And they’re researching other applications: depression, weight management, empathy and worker safety.


“Happy place” screen capture

By selling their technology to medical centers at a discount, the company receives data on the effectiveness in return. This is still at early stages, but the feedback from patients appears positive.

What’s fascinating is it marks the shift in uses for VR from being a gimmick towards being productive. As VR makes its way along the Gartner Hype Cycle, there will be other new applications for health. The challenge, as ever, is finding these and proving that they work. No small task then…