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VR Analgesic Gallery

VR eases suffering through a winter landscape—you both travel through an outdoor gallery of your favorite images and memories.

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

This experience is designed for terminally ill patients and their loved ones–near and far. Loved ones unable to visit a terminally ill friend or family member could visit them in Virtual Reality and experience this analgesic memory gallery together. Access could be granted through a network of providers offering access to this service.

Virtual reality can help ease suffering—burn victims comforted by cold, wintry scenes.

Image title

 By this logic, artists and programmers could design a suite of immersive scenes (anxiety—the gentle waves of the ocean lapping the rocky shore; 

waves hitting shore

chills-a cozy cabin with a crackling fire; fever–walking over a frozen lake by snow-covered woods;  etc.) that populate with a personalized gallery of selected images and audio 

gallery concept (interior)

(see article for examples of research in this growing field).

Together, a person suffering in their final days and their loved one can virtually traverse the analgesic environment and encounter favorite images, songs, and videos—sparking reflection, conversation and memories.  The project is focused on easing suffering and helping stimulate important moments of connection between the suffering individual and their loved ones.  Loved ones unable to physically travel to the terminally ill friend or family member could join them through VR technology–a service ideally provided through a local provider but part of a worldwide network.  The VR analgesic gallery is both a virtual escape and something deeply personal.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Working with a programmer to design an immersive scene for the Oculus Rift would be a good starting point. Also, I live near the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora Colorado, so there could potentially be many partners (main hospital, veterans, children's hosp, etc.) for testing this concept.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

familiarity with logistics/implementing a service across a system of providers programmers/VR specialists

Tell us about your work experience:

I was a post-doc in a university lab focused on VR and healthcare (Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery: Living Environments Lab). My training is in ethnography.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual


Join the conversation:

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Photo of Joanna Spoth

Hi Carrie! I wanted to quickly pass along some feedback we recently received from our challenge sponsors:
"We're excited about the ease of this idea to be tested on a small scale. It seems like a natural improvement on what currently exists in the hospital environment."

Looking forward to seeing your idea continue to evolve in this last week of our Refinement phase!

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Welcome to the refinement phase Carrie! Here are some key questions and milestones we encourage from all ideas in the Refinement:

1. How might this idea address the unique needs of the target audience you're designing for?
2. Clearly summarize the value offering of your idea in 1-2 sentences
3. Communicate your idea in a visual way with user experience maps
4. Identify assumptions that need to be answered in order to validate your value offering:
5. Collect feedback from potential partners and users to answer the assumptions you’ve identified.

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 07/12" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

Photo of James Takayesu

What a great idea.  This could be done to demedicalize death even in the most austere setting (e.g. the hospital).    A potential barrie could be visibility to family who are present, but I think there is a lot to be gained from this technology since visiting hours are limited and those who are dying at home or in hospice are often alone.  This technological intervention could introduce guided meditation, and other relaxation techniques to dying patients, concepts which have been proven in the sedation and pediatric literature to reduce pain and suffering (see Baruch Krauss' publications on non-pharmacologic sedation in children for painful procedure from Children's Hospital Boston).  Thank you for putting this forward!

Photo of Carrie Roy

Hi James,
Thank you for your post.  About the present family and visibility issue, Jim Rosenberg sent me a link in an earlier conversation  I actually think this experience would benefit from the virtual presence of another family member to accompany the dying individual in this environment–they could help navigate, populate the environment with photos, videos, etc.  I remember my aunt's last weeks fighting pancreatic cancer–she was depressed, very uncomfortable, unable or unwilling to discuss funeral arrangements.  I wondered if my uncle would have benefited from a VR environment where he could have asked her about her favorite photographs, moments, music, etc. in a manner that wasn't obviously associated with funeral arrangements.  She was too weak to go anywhere–perhaps too weak to navigate a VR environment with a joystick, etc. but with my uncle's help–it could have provided a type of psychological escape–perhaps one that would have fostered the conversations that he wished he could have had with her in that difficult time.

Photo of Yuan Wang

Hi Carrie, love this idea. Actually I was just discussing something similar with a friend too! My initial thoughts was more on creating/recreating a immersive personal memorable moments/timeline through VR. Would love to collaborate on this

Photo of Carrie Roy

Thank you so much!  I'd love to hear more ideas/thoughts from you on the immersive personal moments.  Thanks again.

Photo of Aaron Wong

Hi Carrie,
I love the idea of using technology to reframe the EoL experience. I linked you with Subhashree Ramadoss  and his post Power of Imagination  who is thinking of using  a program to recreate memorable life moments or to create new precious moments. I think there is enough similarity between your ideas, but at the same time grow both of your ideas. Also check out this ted talk,, where VR is not only helping students experiment but is also allowing students and professors to reframe questions.