An innovative virtual reality smartphone app – A Walk Through Dementia – has been launched to put the public in the shoes of someone with dementia.
The Android-exclusive app, developed by Alzheimer’s Research UK and virtual reality specialists VISYON, uses the widely-available Google Cardboard headset to bring the reality of dementia to life. Voiced by Dame Harriet Walter, and with an introduction from Jon Snow, A Walk Through Dementia is designed to help the public think beyond memory loss to gain a fully immersive insight into the varied symptoms people with dementia can experience in everyday life.
This is the first time a smartphone Cardboard app has been used to engage the public with the condition. The experience, which can also be viewed headset-free on the app or online, uses a combination of computer generated environments and 360 degree video sequences to illustrate in powerful detail how even the most everyday task of making a cup of tea can become a challenge for someone with dementia.
Unfolding over three scenarios, the user is tasked with buying ingredients, taking them home and making a cup of tea for their family. A supermarket environment reveals difficulties at the checkout, counting money, reading the shopping list, busy environments and finding items.
A second street sequence illustrates problems people with dementia may face with navigation, visual-spatial problems and disorientation.
Finally, back at home, making tea for visiting family presents challenges around memorising instructions, visual symptoms and coordination problems.
Developed with the help of people living with dementia, and with support from Prof Sebastian Crutch at UCL’s Dementia Research Centre, A Walk Through Dementia is an innovative, free and unique perspective on a condition that affects 850,000 people in the UK.
Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “Dementia is commonly misunderstood, so A Walk Through Dementia is designed to offer the public a clearer picture of the challenges that people living with the condition face in everyday life. The app also gives a poignant insight into the emotional impact of symptoms, an element that people with dementia told us was important to achieve. Although each person with dementia experiences the condition differently, and it would be hard to recreate the full range of complex symptoms, harnessing new technology like virtual reality helps us engage people with the impact of dementia on a new level.”
The app was launched via public showcases at St Pancras International Station and The Cheltenham Science Festival.
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