This project is examining how different types of virtual environments might be used to improve health and wellbeing. It is one half of our virtual reality work, and focuses on using computer generated ‘natural’ environments. Information on our work that uses 360 degree films can be found here.

A growing body of evidence shows that spending time in natural settings can have positive effects on both physical exercise and mental health.  Yet many people may not be able to access these spaces easily.

This study will explore how virtual reality might bring some of these possible benefits to people who are unable to visit ‘real’ environments themselves. This might include older people in care homes, those with physical impairments caused by either major surgery or long term disability, and individuals in end-of-life care.

With ongoing feedback from users, the team at Lund University are creating a state-of-the-art set of virtual environments which provide interaction and agency; users can walk around and interact with the environment at will. These virtual spaces use the latest techniques in computer graphics, an example of which can be found here.

The effects of these computer generated environments will then be compared with photo-realistic 360 films developed by the team at the University of Exeter. The team will investigate levels of immersion and cognitive restoration in both settings to provide an optimised suite of virtual realities that can be tested in healthcare settings in Lund, Estonia and the UK.

The study will lay the foundations for the therapeutic use of virtual reality in healthcare and provide a theoretical basis for some of the physical interventions planned in other BlueHealth research areas.

Initial work and testing on the virtual environments will take place throughout 2017 and optimised versions will be piloted in care homes in 2018.