Howard Stagg, our Senior Motion Designer and resident expert on all things VR, shares our most recent project for a leading eye health client – as well as a taste of the exciting future of VR in health.
Without a doubt, VR has quickly become the most talked about topic in the tech industry, yet there are conversations about the hype outweighing the benefits. But as with any innovation, the technology is pointless without an engaging creative concept.
Our client, a leading contact lens company, asked us to design and build an educational but immersive experience to act as a center-piece on their stand at BCLA Liverpool. This undoubtedly needed creative minds from across the business, so we gathered designers, animators, writers, directors and account teams to discuss not just what would be possible, but what content was most relevant for delegates. Our insights told us to structure the content around the workings of the lens itself to ensure the focus was never taken away from the purpose of the experience.
In terms of interactivity, we kept the experience as simple and user-friendly as possible, while at the same time as being immersive, compelling and – most of all – personal. So we allowed our user to pick up and explore the floating lens in their own time, which gave everyone their own individual version of the experience. The contact lens had a surface that acted similar to glass, so that reflections and refractions acted as they would in the real world, which was not only fun for the user but encouraged them to explore the room by turning and looking in different directions.
We teamed up with a specialist stand build company and agreed ways we could connect our user with the real world throughout their virtual experience. For example, we designed a podium that stood in the center of the virtual room that was exactly the same height and shape as the podium in real life, which means that while completely immersed, the VR user can reach out to the virtual podium and real podium simultaneously so when they needed to put a controller down, or hold on to steady themselves, there was actually a solid structure there.
Our pièce de résistance of the project was the link we made to the client’s campaign, ’16 Hours of Amazing’. The idea was that after the user had listened to and interacted with the lens within the plain white room, they would be prompted by the voiceover to pull the lens towards their own eyes. This would trigger a transition in which the room itself splits open and the floor crumbles away to reveal beautiful 360° scenes from around the world – a sequence that we called our ’60 Seconds of Amazing’. It was incredibly rewarding to see the shock and smiles on people’s faces as they were virtually transported around the world.
So what’s next for VR in health?
Now the initial excitement has died down, what is left are several questions, not about what VR can do, but what VR should do, especially in the health sector. How will this platform evolve to help us better understand the human body for example, or help us learn a new skill in a more engaging way?
Whilst at BCLA I attended a talk by Steve Newman, who was exploring the use of AR, VR and mixed reality in health – specifically eye care, titled ‘Augmented Reality in the Workplace’. He spoke about the use of mixed reality for planning new equipment placements in surgery and meetings in which groups of eye care professionals can come together and discuss the 3D renders in front of them.
But can the technology go further than that? Well, clinical trials are in progress at Nationwide Children’s Hospital to test the benefits and feasibility of Voxel Bay, a VR game specifically designed and produced at the hospital to distract children during potentially traumatic medical procedures. Making a VR Game for pediatric pain management is just one of the ways in which surgeons and consultants can utilize the technology, and over the past 5 years, hospitals across the UK and US have been turning to simulations for advanced training techniques. With an array of audio and visual effects as well as haptic (vibrating) controllers, these VR experiences can help trainee doctors practice in high stress situations without the pressure of a real life at stake.
I’m personally very excited to see where this tech is going and can’t wait to create another experience to temporarily change someone’s reality.