How can someone with a healthy brain understand a person with Alzheimer's Disease?
Embodied Labs envisions a world where caregivers of aging populations can better care for and understand the perspectives of the aging experience. To accomplish this goal, we have created a subscription-based software made up of a growing library of embodied human experience labs that end users access through a virtual reality headset. All of our labs are based on the Embodied Labs Learning Framework that is grounded in embodied learning theory. The final experience is a 360 live action video with interactive elements where the caregiver's hands are tracked and projected as the fictional (but medically accurate) person that they embody.
We are creating a "Human Experience Library", which currently includes The Beatriz Lab: Alzheimer's Disease.
We currently have two complete labs. In The Alfred Lab, the caregiver embodies an elderly man who has hearing loss and and macular degeneration, then engages in an immersive documentary about real people living with these audiovisual disabilities today. In The Beatriz Lab, the caregiver embodies an elderly woman as she progresses through early, middle, and late stage Alzheimer's disease then reflect on the embodied experience by engaging in an immersive documentary about real people living with Alzheimer's disease today.
Sample Learning Outcomes for The Beatriz Lab:
1. Understand how Alzheimer's affects each of the five regions of the brain and what symptoms and behaviors can be linked to these regions.
2. Understand how caregivers can engage with their loved one in positive ways that promote better communication and quality of life for both the caregiver and person with Alzheimer's.
3. Understand how the person with the disease, their care partners, and various parts of the healthcare system can all work together as a team.
4. Understand some of the ways that culture and a person's background can affect their and their families' perceptions of Alzheimer's disease.
How it works:
Currently, our beta customers purchase a VR headset, computer, and software subscription. A learner logs into the app, selects a lab, takes a pre-assessment, embodies a patient, completes a post-assessment, and exits. There are a variety of options for further reflection individually and in groups with the accompanying curricular materials that come with the module.
Who our customers are:
Our software is being used by students in medical schools, osteopathic schools, physician assistant schools, allied health programs, high schools, and by staff, family caregivers, and volunteers in long term care facilities.
- October 2016: Pilot study with 2nd year medical students as part of their geriatrics curriculum. We learned that we would need an application to effectively deploy VR in the education environment.
- January 2017: We began working with our first beta customers. We learned that we would need to integrate customized assessment capabilities with our application to satisfy the needs of our customers to test the efficacy of our product and value of their investment in VR hardware and software.
- May 2017: As finalists in the EdSimChallenge, we prototyped our app in high school classrooms, and updated our app to support individual, group, and classroom modes of learning.
- December 2018: We released the Beatriz lab and prototyped it with staff, volunteers, and family caregivers at a long term care community. We received feedback that we plan to integrate into our plans for our mobile and desktop app.
Looking to the future:
Within the next two years, VR technology will become a common patient and family education tool for any organization or business that serves older adults. The price and capability of the hardware continues to drop in price every month. For now, our experiences only work on high end VR systems (e.g., Oculus Rift or HTC Vive rather than Gear VR or Cardboard) because we have found that the higher fidelity experiences deliver a significantly higher quality user experience and drive meaningful learning. In the near future our high quality, interactive experiences will be accessible through an app on an affordable VR headset. At Embodied Labs, we are committed to creating human experiences that transform the way caregivers engage with those who are aging.
Embodied Labs is currently developing partnerships to make their software more accessible to the people who need to use it. Our software will soon become available to visitors of an aging services innovation center in Lousiville, Kentucky (home to the largest amount of aging services headquarters in the US), allowing the public and those interesting in aging and senior services to use our software at that location. We also envision partnering with public libraries to make The Beatriz Lab and accompanying materials and resources accessible to their patrons.