This application is an original SneakyBox idea. We noticed how many people struggle with a fear of public speaking – and realized how easily that fear could be fixed with the latest VR technology. We couldn’t just stand by and not help! All we needed to set up the VRmedica project was official approval and financial support. We looked for possible sponsors and got a positive response from EU, who provided innovation funding. With that support, we hired a group of professional psychologists to help us out with their expertise.
Fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears of all. Many people have experienced it, and many still have it. From time to time most people need to stand up and talk in front of a crowd, a classroom or a stage. To help people get rid of their public speaking fears more quickly and effectively, we opted to use Virtual Reality.
The most common solution when dealing with any kind of fear is facing it. The theory is that if a person faces the object or situation which causes their fear as often as they can, it becomes commonplace and less frightening. However, many people are not in a position to face their fears often enough to get rid of them. This is where Virtual Reality can help – with VR, you can create and simulate anything you can imagine, and feel like what you are seeing is actually real.
To help overcome the fear of public speaking SneakyBox created an easily accessible Samsung Gear VR application, with which the user can talk in front of 2 to 12+ people audience in virtual reality. The user can change the audience size to suit their needs) and can also add their own speech or presentation into the app, so they can deliver it in front of a virtual crowd.
If the user doesn’t feel the same stress while talking in front of virtual people as talking in front of a real audience, some additional stress-inducing, real-life factors can come into action within the app to step it up a level. For example, they may see and hear a ticking timer, which constantly shows how much time is left for the presentation. A more rapid heartbeat, or heavier breathing. The virtual ‘room’ they’re in may even have echoes, so they can hear what they are saying bouncing back at them.
The psychologists we consulted loved the VRmedica concept and suggested we could address other fears with the application. We have now created VRmedica simulations for people who are afraid of height, and for people who have a fear of enclosed spaces. These fears are also addressed with several different scenarios and levels which simulate more difficult situations according to the user’s response.
The psychologists also wanted to participate in some VRmedica sessions and see how their patients were doing in the application, so we have added multi-user functionality.
We are delighted to see that our idea has been accepted, appreciated and encouraged by professionals, sponsors and potential users. We believe that it will help many people to cope with their fears and make their lives better.
To promote VRmedica and trial it with more users, we have participated in several innovative technology and medicine related events:
Supernova 2017 – International creative innovation festival.
Innovation Drift 2017 – Innovation forum, one of the biggest innovation events in Baltic region.
ChiM’17 – three days of training, in which medical students are taught about surgeons’ everyday work. They were also introduced to many VR technologies which could help either doctors or patients, including our VRmedica application.
TECHNOLOGIES AND TOOLS
Hardware: Samsung Gear VR
Game engine: Unity
Frameworks and libraries: iTween, photonNetwork, RestSharp, Oculus Mobile SDK
IDE: Visual Studio
Other tools: Git, Jenkins, HockeyApp