Many elderly people find they have to rely on mobile devices to get around. Often times they feel restricted in their ability to interact and explore the world around them. However, the use of virtual reality avatar has recently begun to change this for many elderly citizens. Allowing them to explore the world despite their restricted mobility and reminisce about life when they were younger.
Recently, at Melbourne University, a group of individuals have been working with elderly people to create avatars of themselves. The group allowed to create them to look any way they would like, and many of the participants have opted to make avatars that remind them of their younger selves.
No longer restricted by the use of mobility devices and able to move around more freely than in their everyday lives. The team then used these avatars to allow the participants to engage with one another. And make connections with other elderly people, whom most of them had never met previously.
The technology team has worked with the participants to engage with one another through the use of Highway of Life. As a result, the individuals have been able to form relationships with other people. And with whom they might not have otherwise had the opportunity to have met.
As the ageing population becomes less mobile, they often become socially isolated, and may even experience depression. However, being able to connect with others with the help of virtual reality avatar is terrific. They may be able to help people who are otherwise because of a lack of mobility, geographical restraints, or living in a facility for elderly.
As part of the study, test participants wear virtual reality goggles and headphones. So that they can hear, see and interact with the other participants. The participants also have hand controllers. It allow them to also interact and grasp three-dimensional objects they see in the “room” they are meeting other participants in.
Researchers observed the testing, as the participants begin to quickly engage in conversations with one another. They often share life stories and are able to use the controllers to help depict emotions. After the testing begins, the participants then remove their headphones, controllers, and goggles. And quickly adjust back into the real world around them.
Researchers encouraged many of the participants to utilize the opportunity to share and interact with the other people in the room. While people mostly gave positive responses, the participants felt developers needed to address a few things to get more out of the experience.
For instance, one participant did not like that the technology limited the ability to see facial expressions. He felt it made it difficult to always know what the other person communicated. Another participant also shared they were concerned about the size and weight of the equipment they needed to use in order to participate. This is particularly important since bulky equipments. They might hinder the ability for some to be able to wear the goggles or hold the controllers for a prolonged period of time. The result may become discouraging.
However, these are concerns which they can overcome easily by producing technology that made it possible to see facial expressions or pieces of equipment that are more streamlined and lighter weight.
What the Future Holds
Researchers hope to be able to use this testing to push for virtual reality technology to be used in elder care facilities in the coming years. This will make it possible to reduce the feeling of isolation much of the ageing population may experience. It will also give an opportunity for family and friends to check in with loved ones.
What are your thoughts? Do you think this technology can help the ageing population? Share your thoughts in the comments.