VR Therapies Calls for Urgent Support after Christmas Day Burglary
The Northampton-based charity hopes to recover stolen headsets for its special needs patients
A major charity offering virtual reality (VR) therapies to vulnerable people was “heartbroken” after a massive burglary took place on Christmas Day. Charity Founder Rebecca Gill is a former NHS nurse and launched the world-first VR alternative therapy center last year.
ITV reported on Saturday that burglars stole valuable headsets totaling tens of thousands of pounds in equipment from Northampton charity VR Therapies. The criminals stole Meta Quest, Pico, and HTC VIVE headsets, tablets, smartphones, controllers, and other devices.
Police have arrested a suspect aged 41 and will deliver sentencing in February. Despite this, authorities have noted that recovering the stolen equipment is unlikely.
The charity used the VR kit and devices to provide therapies for people with a host of issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism, cerebral palsy, and others. VR simulations allow patients with limited mobility to enter virtual worlds to fly, swim with dolphins, and space travel, among others.
In the report, Gill said as quoted by ITV,
“It’s my baby, this is what I’ve worked so hard on for the last four years. It’s heartbreaking […] “They stole accessibility items, like our adaptive controllers, [which are needed] so children with special needs can access all of these technologies and games”
VR Therapy Treatments
Following the incident, the charity recouped roughly £5,600 after army veteran Nick Wilson launched a GoFundMe page. The fundraiser has set a goal of £10,000 and has surpassed £8,800 in donations.
In it, he explained the charity’s purpose was to “serve our community” and support the elderly, children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) requirements, people with Alzheimer’s, autism, and other conditions. Wilson remains paralysed due to spinal cord injuries from his military service.
Speaking to ITV, he said,
“You compare a lot between where you are now and where you used to be, which then makes it really difficult and it can impact your mental health as well. So, being able to go scuba diving or parachuting or to do the stuff you maybe now can’t do, it’s a lifesaver. It can literally be a lifesaver.”
He added the center relied on donations to recoup its equipment as insurance covered a small number of headsets and devices.
Charity Director Matt Fishlock added,
“It’s extremely vital. Insurance money takes quite a while to come through, so to be able to have those donations to get the equipment now just puts us ahead of track for running the sessions again and getting back out there.”
The Need for VR Therapy Solutions
The incident comes as numerous VR firms develop critical therapies for patients across healthcare. Several firms are currently leading efforts to support patients with their solutions. VR Therapies operations come amid increased industry efforts to show the efficacy of VR on patient outcomes.
Here are some of the top immersive therapy firms serving the healthcare community.
XR Today recently interviewed Penumbra, a major VR firm using HTC VIVE headsets to rehabilitate patients with next-generational immersive tools.
Doctors leveraging the technologies can track patient outcomes from entry to the final stages of their therapies to document proof to healthcare providers.
Adam Elsesser, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of Penumbra, explained how his firm’s REAL System could “capture a patient’s imagination” and motivate them to complete their rehab course. People using the platform could also integrate their activities with clinical therapy plans.
Rocket VR Health
Boston-based Rocket VR Health also struck a major deal with the Massachusetts General Hospital for a cutting-edge virtual reality therapy platform for patients.
The deal will allow the firm to support therapies for cancer patients receiving hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) treatment while hospitalised. Diseases requiring such treatment include leukemia, myeloma, lymphoma, and other blood cancers.
Using Rocket VR’s solution, HCT patients could expedite their 28-day hospitalisation while recovering from bone marrow transplants. This would improve their quality of life, boost mobility, and tackle isolation due to long hospital stays.
Rendevor VR received massive praise from global media for its immersive health and wellness solution MultiBrush. The painting app allowed elderly patients to use Meta Quest headsets to paint in physical locations with the device’s passthrough capabilities. This increased their mobility, improved cognitive functioning, and provided a space for patients to interact with others at care facilities.
The VR app earned the company a spot on TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Companies for 2022. Companies featured on the list included Zoom, Netflix, Apple, Nintendo, Moderna, and others.
Sarah Ticho, Founder of Hatsumi VR and Co-Founder of the XR Healthcare Alliance, explained her journey to developing VR therapeutic solutions.
The solution allows patients to collaborate using body mapping techniques. These allow users to communicate their mental health experiences with 3D drawing tools.
Doctors can also leverage the platform with a deeper understanding of patient’s emotional and mental well-being while in therapy.