Launched by Alzheimer’s Australia Vic, The Virtual Forest™ uses cutting edge video game and sensor technology, and takes a person with dementia into a virtual environment where they can experience awe, giggles and amazement.
Through movement the interactive screen-projected game lets users instigate changes in the scenery, such as butterflies fluttering through flowers, a row boat floating around a pond or a family of ducks splashing about in the water. No headsets or hand-control devices are needed.
“The Virtual Forest™ is empowering for a person with dementia. It gives them an element of control at a time in their life when so many choices are beyond their control,” says Acting CEO Alzheimer’s Australia Vic Leanne Wenig.
She explains that the ability to control what is happening in the forest heightens communication and interaction.
“Simply by waving their arms in the air or clapping their hands, the user is enchanted by the imagery and engaged through the stimulating interactivity.”
The project was launched through a Pozible campaign in March 2014 that attracted $24,000 in pledges that supported development. The campaign piqued the interest of international technology media who got behind the concept.
Residents and staff of Lifeview Residential Care played a critical role in testing and refining the product over the past two years. The thoughts, reactions and mood of residents formed valuable feedback on this project, which is built around the sensitivities of those living with dementia.
According to Lifeview Chief Executive Officer Madeline Gall the change in the demeanour of residents is truly amazing. She says residents are calmer, yet more involved and there is a light in their eyes.
“To see this technology in action is extremely heart-warming. Watching the faces of residents living with dementia light up as they realise they are in control only reinforces Lifeview’s decision to assist in bringing this technology to life, “ Ms Gall adds.
The Virtual Forest™ can be installed as an interactive art installation, used for one on one engagement, in group interaction or a shared, family experience.