Virtual reality distraction can help lessen anxiety and cope with pain, and can be created to provide leisure activities for those not able to do typical leisure activities (i.e. those confined to a wheelchair, those with breathing difficulties, etc.). An optional head mount display (HMD) is equipped with a head tracker that detects the patient’s head rotations and position while navigating through the virtual world. In some types of medical procedures where the patient is unable to use a flat panel display and mouse comfortably, the HMD provides a viable alternative for administering VR therapy. Real-time Bio-feedback provides the therapist with all of the patient’s vitals, including heart rate, respiration, skin conductance, temperature, electroencephalogram (EEG), and electrocardiogram (ECG).
1. Enchanted Forest
The Enchanted Forest VR world was originally designed to provide pain distraction for people coping with chronic pain, yet it can easily be adapted for other pain distraction applications as well. The setting of this virtual environment was created to elicit relaxation and enjoyment. Novel stimuli are presented to facilitate pain distraction. The scope and complexity of this VR world is suitable for VR sessions of long duration.
This colorful fantasy world consists of an enchanted forest with waterfalls, streams, tropical fauna, and man-made structures such as bridges, boats, and huts. Ambient music mimicking sounds of nature serves as an auditory backdrop for exploration. Whimsical creatures such as pink deer and mystical spirits inhabit the forest. Participants begin their journey of exploration through the virtual forest by strolling along the grassy planes and across the bridges. A flowing river runs throughout the forest. Next to the river is a small dock where the user can wait to board a row boat that takes the user across the forest. Users can navigate the VR world freely.
2. Dream Castle
The Dream Castle VR world was originally designed to provide pain distraction for people coping with nausea and other side effects of chemo therapy, yet it can easily be adapted for other pain distraction applications as well. The setting of this virtual environment was created to facilitate relaxation and enjoyment. Novel stimuli are presented to facilitate pain distraction.
Exploration of the Dream Castle VR world begins in front of the castle’s entrance, with an expansive lawn and three large buildings. To the left and right of the main entrance are art galleries that house intriguing paintings and sculptures, some of which are interactive. Various unique objects are placed throughout the art galleries and castle. When the user navigates further into the building structures, he/she encounters a house with numerous rooms, each having something radically novel to view. Special effects include a bubble room, a snow room, reflective walls, and bouncing balls. The bubble room was developed so that the bubbles burst in midair. The snow room contains reflective walls and furniture that produce a feeling of icy chilliness. There is also a room full of bouncing balls that were animated using accurate physical dynamics. Outside, there is a balcony and garden, both with swimming pools that the user can jump into. The music and lighting of the Dream Castle VR world reflect the unique mood and features of each area. For example, bedrooms have warmer lighting hues and the grand ballroom has a brighter, more vibrant lighting scheme. The galleries were created to contain particularly dim lighting with spotlights on each of the art pieces so that the artwork is always visible. Outdoors sound effects include crickets, chirping birds, and flowing water. Inside, classical music plays in one of the galleries and a more modern piece plays in the other gallery. These choices reflect the style of artwork displayed in each gallery. Users can navigate the VR world freely.
3. South Pole Fantasy
The South Pole Fantasy VR world was originally designed to provide pain distraction for people coping with acute and procedural pain, such as certain dental procedures, yet it can easily be adapted for other pain distraction applications as well.
There are two main parts of the virtual environment: a snowy outdoor landscape and an ice castle. Outside is a snow-covered hilly terrain. Fog was incorporated in the setting for added realism and a mysterious quality to the game that allures the user. The sky was created with a variety of slightly different colors and moving clouds for enhanced visual effect. Constant snow fall also enhances the feeling of the environment. Interspersed throughout the snowy landscape and within the ice castle are virtual penguins trapped in ice cubes. Users free the trapped penguins by clicking the mouse and shooting fire snowballs at the ice cubes.
The ice castle is three stories high with reflective ice crystals, a captivating water fall, several bridges and radiant laser beams. Many light sources inside the castle and different levels of the brightness, color and intensity of the lights were used to imitate the reflective appearance of real ice, yet provided suitable lighting for easy user navigation. Moving textures are included to look like laser beams and water falls. Sound effects include flowing water at the waterfalls, crunching snow as the user walks around, and squawking of the penguins when they are freed. The music evokes a calm and soothing response, as the cadence of the music matches the navigational speed in the VR and creates a relaxing rhythm for the user. The background music nicely correlates to the icy scenery and enhances the feeling of being inside a chilly world.