Innovations That Matter

Kenta Toshima shot panoramic images and videos with a 360-degree camera | Photo source Kenta Toshima

Nursing home patients use VR to ‘travel’ and bolster spirits

Travel & Tourism

A researcher in Japan has developed virtual reality technology for nursing home patients, in an aim to help them live longer and happier lives

Spotted: Kenta Toshima, a researcher at the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology Inami-Hiyama Laboratory, has developed VR technology that allows elderly and nursing home patients to travel to places in the world they once visited or wish to see.

The experiment started when, working in a nursing home, Toshima was inspired to take panoramic images and videos with the 360-degree camera, which could be viewed through a VR headset by the care home resident. This idea grew in popularity.  

The aim, according to Toshima, is to help and inspire elderly patients who are prevented from travelling due to physical or mental impairments, or who wish to reminisce on past experiences from the safety of their care home.

“The VR experience makes them feel like they are out of the nursing home and can help ease their anxiety and loneliness,” he said in a conversation with Insta360.com, whose camera he used to shoot the panoramas. The process of creating the shots also involved Toshima adding narration and names, to put the viewer at their ease.

Toshima did, however, face some difficulties. The process of retrieving memories from elderly or low capacity patients was tricky, and sometimes the photos and videos captured fell short of the patient’s memory. However, the rehabilitation itself occurs too in the process of talking to the elderly about their dreams and memories.

“With our research, we’re aiming to collect objective data on any changes in the elderly’s cognitive and motor functions from using VR technology. We’re also researching how VR can be used to help prevent dementia,” Toshima said.

Toshima has shot 250 VR videos in over 28 countries and 35 prefectures in Japan since 2014, and over 500 people have experienced the VR trips, with these figures set to expand. 

Explore more: Travel & Tourism Innovations | Computing & Tech Innovations

Website: star.rcast.u-tokyo.ac.jp/en

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