Birmingham developer teaming up with Sir David Attenborough to create new virtual reality app to help hospice patients

A Birmingham developer is teaming up with Sir David Attenborough to create a new virtual reality app which could help hospice patients manage their pain.

Holosphere is creating the new product for St Giles Hospice, which operates sites in Walsall and Lichfield.

Work on the app started after the hospice used virtual reality as part of its pain management programme and saw the relief it provided for patients.

Sir David Attenborough. Pic: Mikedixson

Sir David Attenborough. Pic: Mikedixson

And now Sir David has recorded a voiceover for the the product, which will be available on the Oculus Rift and XX platforms.

Holosphere director Sean Duffy said the project showed the technology could be used beyond gaming.

“It’s great to be part of the development of an app which will hopefully bring pain relief to so many people and demonstrates the use of VR in a health setting,” he said.

“There is so much potential in this area from helping to manage pain to tackling phobias and reminiscence therapy for people with dementia and we are delighted to be part of the first wave of development.”

St Giles Hospice’s medical director Sheila Popert said she was delighted to have got the backing of Sir David for the project.

“When we started work on creating an app I knew the voice of the narrator would be the key to its success and the first person I thought of was Sir David,” she said. “I was amazed and delighted when he agreed and within weeks he had recorded the narration for us and it surpasses expectation.

“Pain is one of the most feared symptoms for people living with a palliative condition and the treatment is usually drug related. But the drugs are not always effective and often have side effects which can stop patients making the most of the time they have.

“One of the elements of the pain management programme that participants found particularly beneficial was mindfulness but because some patients have so many distressing thoughts whirring about in their head they can find it difficult to relax enough to enter a meditative state.

“We decided to test whether using virtual reality might enable patients to relax and enter a meditative state more easily. The results were amazing, it is wonderful to observe patients’ body language as they become immersed in a virtual world where they can forget their pain.

“We are now working on the visuals to accompany the narration and look forward to launching the app in the autumn.”

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