Dementia is a debilitating condition that not only robs sufferers of their faculties but also friends and families of their loved ones, especially as it can be difficult to understand from an outside perspective. To help with this, creative agency Galactig has created a free piece for virtual reality (VR) software for Oculus Rift called Dementia First Hand.
Aiming to be as realistic as possible, Dementia First Hand features scenarios relating to everyday tasks at home. These include simple tasks such as making a cup of tea in the kitchen and looking for your car keys; with users hearing a voice through the headset that speaks to you in the same way a person with dementia may think e.g. telling you to put an electric kettle on the hob, in order to demonstrate the confusion dementia patients feel.
Derick Murdoch, Creative Director at Galactig said in a statement: “This is a groundbreaking use of VR technology to teach soft skills in Welsh and English. We have created an experience which allows you to interact with everyday objects using virtual hands which aid users in fully immersing themselves in the narrative.”
Dementia First Hand is part of a Gwynedd Council funded Dementia Friends initiative and has been used at dementia workshops since the middle of 2018. Explaining why it was important for the experience to be in the Welsh language, Project leader Meilys Heulfryn Smith said: “When a person develops dementia, they may often lose the ability to communicate in their second language. This technology paints a poignant picture of this experience, immersing the user in a situation where they recognise the need for actions to manage the task, and the words associated with those actions, but are simply not able to retrieve them.”
Dementia First Hand is quite a bit different from Galactig’s last VR project Neon. Released in 2017, Neon is a classic retro-inspired arcade shooter with 42 levels to play through.