Start VR and Australia hospital using presence to provide distraction from chemotherapy

[Most of the press coverage of this important application of presence is drawn from the Samsung press release below, which includes a 4:43 minute video. More information on the project is available from Start VR, and an excerpt from coverage in The Australian about the origins of the project follows the press release below. –Matthew]

Start VR Introduces Virtual Reality to Chemotherapy Patient Program at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse

Australia on March 07, 2017

Sydney based virtual reality studio Start VR have collaborated with Samsung Australia and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse to develop a ground-breaking initiative to supply Samsung virtual reality (VR) technology to help alleviate stress for diagnosed oncology patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

The project showcases the potential for VR to be used as a tool to help ease psychological stress and provide a form of “distraction therapy” during typically arduous chemotherapy treatments. Patients were provided with Samsung Gear VR headsets and the option to select an experience either from the Gear VR store or Start VR’s catalogue of content. Experiences ranged from transporting patients to a relaxing travel destination, plunging off an airplane in a skydiving stimulating experience, taking a boat ride through the Sydney Harbour, snorkeling through sparkling blue waters and petting Koalas at a zoo.

The initiative was spearheaded by Start VR’s Head of Content Martin Taylor, who collaborated with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Samsung Australia to bring the partnership to life.

“Our main goal is to create compelling virtual reality content and initiatives that make a positive impact on the lives of consumers,” Notes Taylor. “We wanted to determine if VR had the potential to change people’s outlook on their current environment and we felt that a healthcare setting, where people sit and wait for periods of time, worried about unknown outcomes would be the right place to start. Though after months of theory and planning, the true reward was meeting these incredible patients and seeing them experience instant joy through the power of VR.”

Adds Taylor, “Exploring the application of VR in healthcare, highlights an exciting pathway for this burgeoning medium and we are proud to leverage what we are learning to continually push boundaries in VR content creation.”

Thriving on the inclusion of cutting edge research, discoveries and uncompromising care, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse embraced virtual reality as a treatment support option for their patients and had clinical staff guiding and supervising to ensure patient safety.

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Complementary Therapy Director Michael Marthick notes, “Allowing patients to escape the experience of chemotherapy gives them a bit of space to forget what’s going on. In settings such as before surgery, patients are even more anxious. This gives them a distraction and allows them to keep their spirits up. Wellness isn’t just about the physical side of things, it’s also about mental wellbeing.”

Martin Brown, Head of Alliances and Enterprise Mobility, Samsung Electronics Australia notes, “This collaboration with Start VR and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse breaks new ground in the way the immersive nature of our virtual reality platform can be applied to a healthcare environment.”

Adds Brown, “We see collaborations with partners like Start VR, and organizations like the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, as critically important to developing tangible ways for our technology to benefit organizations across a wide range of sectors.”

About Start VR

Start VR is a cinematic virtual reality studio, creating highly immersive experiences and interactive content. A leader in longer form VR entertainment that resonates with viewers, the company is known for its compelling narratives, and best of class, blockbuster-quality visuals. Thanks to the in-depth industry knowledge and vast technical experience of Start VR’s team, the company consistently turns out polished, critically acclaimed experiences that are not soon forgotten. Start VR’s beautifully made work is designed to spark unprecedented levels of engagement and viewer involvement, pushing the envelope to explore the storytelling capabilities of Oculus Rift, Gear VR, HTC Vive, Sony PSVR, Daydream and Google Cardboard–and platforms still to come.

About Chris O’Brien Lifehouse

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is one of two comprehensive cancer centers in Australia. Using the latest technology in a modern, purpose-built cancer hospital, our highly experienced clinicians see more than 40,000 public and private patients every year – concentrating all their efforts, learning, research and expertise into cancer care alone. We use a multidisciplinary approach to treatment where teams comprising surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, allied health professionals and researchers provide peer-reviewed, tailored, individualised treatment to patients. Lifehouse is also one of Australia’s biggest cancer clinical trials centres, giving our patients access to the world’s newest cancer breakthroughs. International research has confirmed this specialised, cancer-only approach supported by trials and research at comprehensive cancer centres in the United States and Europe, has resulted in outcomes that are 5 to 15 percent better for patients after five years.


[An excerpt from The Australian]

VR a real distraction from chemotherapy

March 7, 2017
David Swan

Mr Taylor told The Australian he’d seen how powerful the experiences can be first hand, for example one woman had been bedridden for 18 months but was now able to virtually leave her hospital bed.

“In the early days of our company, I was driving past the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse hospital, and I cold-called the reception desk. The receptionist said ‘you do realise this is a cancer hospital?’, and I left my name anyway, then they called me back.

“And today here we are, we’re showcasing the possibilities of this technology as a very powerful tool for helping people in healthcare.”


“We’re fairly excited about where this can go.”

Samsung executive Martin Brown said he met Start VR at a local VR meetup in Sydney, and liked where they were going.

“Personally, I’ve had experience with chemotherapy so I quickly understood the challenge and thought process,” he said. “We’re very proud of what they’re doing here.”

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