A MIT startup, Rendever, is providing the opportunity for elderly patients with restricted mobility to experience the outside world through virtual reality.

Rendever’s concept combines the use of multiple mobile VR headsets (appears to be a version of Samsung Gear VR), custom software, and a tablet. Caregivers use the tablet to control the headsets, while the custom software syncs the VR headsets together. This allows several users to venture together within the virtual environment that includes childhood homes, tropical getaways, sporting events, or even family gathering events. Each unique scenario is custom created by Rendever, and this concept won the company the $25,000 top prize at MIT Sloan Healthcare Innovations competition on February 23, 2017.

Elder loneliness and depression is a significant issue facing both caretakers and assisted living facilities. Rendever hopes to improve this through offering the ability to relive and revisit their favorite locations and memories, and even take group tours of various famous landmarks such as Macchu Picchu.

Not only does this VR system present an avenue for patients to see the real world outside of a care facility or home, it also tracks movement data, a potential source of diagnosis and therapy. Patients can be asked to go about through real life simulations, such as preparing a meal, or other daily actions, offering the possibility of assisting in early diagnosis of dementia. During the entire process, Rendever’s custom software collects data based on movement, reaction time, and executive function.

This isn’t the first VR system to offer a significant option to help manage elder loneliness, as we’ve previously covered OneCaringTeam and their VR options. Given the immersion with today’s cutting edge VR technology, we will likely continue to see innovative uses of this to help escape unpleasant environments. Trials are already underway for such interventions even within the hospital such as Cedars-Sinai is conducting.