Virtual reality technology may be able to help doctors treat patients more effectively
A tragedy in Dr Sungchul Jung’s homeland of South Korea has inspired a project seeking to leverage virtual reality (VR) technology to help doctors more effectively treat patients.
Dr Sungchul Jung in the University of Canterbury HIT Lab, holding a VR headset.
The 30 year-old patient suffered bipolar disorder and turned on his doctor during a routine consultation. What if Lim had been able to ascertain the patient’s troubled mental state using a ‘telepresence’ tool that kept himself safe in the process?
That was the question that went through Dr Jung’s mind as he started pondering how to apply his PhD research in virtual reality (VR) to safe and effective mental health therapy and treatment.
Telepresence in virtual reality is a fast-growing field, allowing people wearing VR headsets to meet in a virtual space, with their digital avatars interacting and conversing. With newer VR headsets and handheld controllers using cameras and sensors to track head and hand movements, Dr Jung, who joined the HIT Lab NZ after completing his PhD at the Orlando at the University of Central Florida, is looking to harness the technology to ascertain a person’s emotional state – in real-time. He explains, “previous research showed that human behaviour such as verbal pattern, eye-gaze, body gesture, and hand gesture are closely related to the human mental status.”
“Also, physiological signals, especially an electroencephalogram (EEG), which represents brain-activity, or an electrocardiogram (ECG), which represents heart activity, could be critical indicators for human emotion, cognition, and perceptual states,” he adds.