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East Meets West: 'we Are Alfred'

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A student in the midst of the virtual reality experience.

A virtual reality experience transforms the user into a 74-year-old named Alfred, in order to see his perspective as a medical patient.

Credit: UIC News Center

An interactive virtual reality simulation enables users to inhabit the perspective of "Alfred," a 74-year-old man with audiovisual impairments, and to empathize with the experiences of elderly patients.

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) study, "We Are Alfred," won first place in the Art/Design/Humanities & Social Sciences category among graduate projects at the UIC Research Forum, as well as the Vesalius Trust Scholarship Award.

The product aims to give medical students greater insight into the challenges of patients going through the aging process.

The 360-degree immersion is achieved by wearing headphones and the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 headset.

Although the prototype had a completely virtual environment, the final iteration utilizes graphic elements and live scenes in a form of interactive cinema. Users experience six live-action scenes from the patient's perspective, and programming techniques and development tools were used to combine footage and simulate medical issues and symptoms.

"The project is focusing on comfort," says UIC professor Eric Swirsky. "It's not curing, it's not curative, it's not even treatment-oriented. It's about comforting and understanding where the patient is so that you can be with him."

From UIC News Center
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