Vir­tual reality helps Homestead res­i­dents and staff

Times-Record - - News - By ABBY ANDREWS aan­drews@car­o­line­times­

DENTON — Homestead Manor re­cently in­tro­duced a very mod­ern tool to help res­i­dents of its as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­ity travel any­where and ex­pe­ri­ence any­thing in the world, with­out hav­ing to leave the build­ing.

Vir­tual reality — specif­i­cally, Sam­sung’s Gear VR sys­tem — is al­low­ing res­i­dents to see places they al­ways dreamed of, or re­visit places they re­mem­ber.

The tech­nol­ogy is also help­ing staff at Homestead Manor, by let­ting them take a quick vir­tual trip to a beach for re­lax­ation, for in­stance. Soft­ware is be­ing de­vel­oped that will al­low staff to feel what it’s like to have Alzheimer’s or de­men­tia, lead­ing to bet­ter un­der­stand­ing and treat­ment for res­i­dents who suf­fer from the dis­eases.

Right now, Homestead Manor has one pair of vir­tual reality gog­gles, but it hopes to pur­chase sev­eral more in the near fu­ture, al­low­ing res­i­dents to go on guided vir­tual group trips.

The idea to in­tro­duce vir­tual reality to the res­i­dents came from Ja­cob Har­ring­ton, son of Ad­min­is­tra­tor Chris­tine Har­ring­ton, and a sopho­more ma­jor­ing in video game pro­duc­tion and de­sign at the Sa­van­nah Col­lege of Art and De­sign in Ge­or­gia.

Ja­cob Har­ring­ton is also a long­time vol­un­teer at Homestead Manor. Over the pre­vi­ous five years of get­ting to know the res­i­dents, he learned some could never leave the fa­cil­ity, or did not want to, but wanted to see a place they’d never vis­ited in real life, or re­con­nect with a mem­ory.

En­joy­ing the Sam­sung Gear VR sys­tem him­self, Ja­cob Har­ring­ton asked his mom if he could bring it to the fa­cil­ity to let res­i­dents try it.

It was an im­me­di­ate hit. One woman, who has de­men­tia and rarely speaks, asked to see the Grand Canyon, which she had never got­ten to see be­fore. She was able to do a vir­tual fly­over, and then take a vir­tual trip down the river cut­ting through it.

An­other woman who once lived in a town in Texas got to re­visit the down­town street where she used to work and get cof­fee at a cafe.

Sam­sung’s sys­tem works by clip­ping one of its smart­phones to the front of the gog­gles. Two im­ages are shown on the phone’s screen. The con­vex lenses of the gog­gles trick the eyes into com­bin­ing the two im­ages, cre­at­ing a sin­gle 3D im­age, sim­i­lar to the way 3D glasses for movies work.

Ja­cob Har­ring­ton said videos ex­ist of prac­ti­cally any­thing res­i­dents want to see or try. Two of the more pop­u­lar videos let peo­ple stand in the mid­dle of the Puppy Bowl as it is un­der way, or ride a roller coaster at a Six Flags theme park in Florida.

WBOC-TV 16 aired the seg­ment about the new tech­nol­ogy Fri­day, March 31, on its “Del­mar va Life” pro­gram.


Ja­cob Har­ring­ton, left, a col­lege stu­dent ma­jor­ing in video game de­sign and a long­time vol­un­teer at Homestead Manor, lis­tens as res­i­dent Ruth Ann DeFord, right, de­scribes the vir­tual trip she is tak­ing to see Brazil, cour­tesy of vir­tual reality tech­nol­ogy Har­ring­ton in­tro­duced to the as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­ity.

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