Care Homes Now Benefiting From New Technologies Thanks To Alexa & VR
Now I don’t know about you but when I think of care homes, I’m pretty much imagining Grandpa Simpson’s Springfield Retirement Castle. For anyone who isn’t a Simpson’s fan it’s an all-round pretty bleak picture. I’ve often wondered when we would start to see these new technologies such as VR being rolled out to improve the quality of life for people who are either chronically ill or incapacitated to some extent. It looks like this will soon become a shared reality following a new digital initiative that is set to bring digital technologies to the elderly.
This digital initiative has been named the Digital Hubs and it is currently being trialled in a few different care homes around the UK. This initiative gives the care home residents a chance to use these immersive experiences to improve their day to day lives. The main tech being trialled is virtual reality headsets, Alexa and Phillips Hue Lighting. The idea is for this technology to be used for both entertainment but also to compliment and assist with the traditional activities of these elderly residents.
One immersive experience that is being provided is called Stimul8. This stroke of genius allows residents of care homes to travel virtually to one of eight locations from different places around the world. It even provides a different meal option or afternoon tea that is specifically themed to the visuals that are being shown. It really adds to the overall immersion and is offering a truly unique experience to people that would otherwise be left by the duck pond.
Another piece of the kit used by Stimul8 is a huge video wall, that uses Philips Hue Lighting system as well as an air blower that wafts infused scents at the viewers, that correlate with the images being shown on screen. This experience is designed as an easier one for any residents who might not be up to the VR headsets for whatever reason. This still provides a more immersive experience and allows the users to experience the outside world in a way that just wasn’t previously available until now.
The whole idea behind this concept is that be creating more stimulating environments for care home residents, it will ultimately have a more meaningful impact on their overall well-being whilst staying in the care home and it will offer them another more broader way to spend their time and provide a bit of a break from their daily routine. Generally, more fulfilled and happy people will live longer and healthier lives.
This project is definitely set to remain as it has shown huge promise and has been rather effective. Quite a few large companies have already come forward to get involved in the scheme. These tech giants inclide Amazon, Nanoleaf, Samsung and Bose, and we are sure that they wouldn’t have too much trouble getting any others to get involved.
As great as all this is, it is important to remember why this technology is being used and integrated. It’s about bettering lives not just about developing a cool immersive experiences for having a more novel lunch or to start replacing the care home staff with VR headsets and feeding tubes, like some sort of nursing home matrix.
George Vaughan who is the main person responsible for The Digital Hub has stated “We are mindful that this isn’t a case of removing the human element from care. Many of these activities are social and collaborative,”. For example as part of the initiative they offer an audio book club. This provides a great opportunity for the care home residents to meet up and collectively listen to a book before then having a discussion centred around the audio book they had just been listening to. The overall vision is to build a network of these Digital Hubs that will be able to offer care home residents an exciting and life changing new virtual space to interact within.
The scheme is also looking into different ways in which they can utilise Amazon’s Echo device, and with it, Alexa to improve resident’s in-room experience. By integrating these devices effectively residents would be able to use them to control everything from the lights to the heating to even playing music all with voice commands. Something which would be incredibly useful to some of the more physically challenged residents. This gives them the ability to take control of these things without having to struggle or else having to ask a carer to assist them with it. Not just this but the tests that have been conducted so far were using Amazon Echo Show. What this means is that lots of the care home residents were able to video call their family whenever they wanted to.
From what it seems though the biggest home run is with VR and AR. It would really seem that you are never too old to enjoy a VR experience. It’s the only technology that is going to allow its users to relive past moments or to virtually travel to nearly any travel destination that they may have always wanted to visit. And this can be done all from the comfort of their sofa or armchair. Meanwhile with the growth of AR there seems to be a whole other area of tech that is set to explode. The Digital Hub is working with an AR agency, Looking Glass, to discover for new ways to integrate physical and digital activities. One of the main things to come out of it is using AR headsets to create a video library of memories that can then be relived by the residents and also even the families. This could be a great way to curate a historical picture that could be shared long into the future.