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Care Homes Now Using Alexa, VR & New Technologies

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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.

care homes

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.

agritech VR

Could Agritech VR Increase Cow Milk Production? Russia Thinks So

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Could Agritech VR Increase Cow Milk Production? Russia Thinks So

Yes you did read that headline correctly. A group of pioneering Russian dairy farmers are experimenting with virtual reality. Their theory is that agritech VR could have the potential to help cows to produce more milk. The Ministry of Agriculture in Russia is actually piloting this VR scheme. They have even created these specially adapted virtual reality headsets that can be strapped to the face of a cow. You couldn’t make this up. Once hooked up to the VR headset the cow is then shown a calm and peaceful landscape with endless rolling fields. To be fair as mad as it sounds if I was the cow, I think I’d rather take the VR experience.

The whole theory behind this was that by giving the cows better “environmental conditions”, the cow’s health would be improved and as such the quality and quantity of milk that they would produce would increase. In this case however the improved conditions would be provided through a virtual reality. The cows probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference and as such will truly experience the calmer surroundings as if they were actually there experiencing it.

Apparently, they assembled a full-on team of people to work on these cow VR headsets. An experienced virtual reality developer was brought in, along with veterinarians, as well as several consultants which honestly seems a bit overkill to me but hey the result was an agritech VR headset perfectly shaped around the structural features of a cow’s face.

agritech vr

There have been many studies on the vision of cattle, and they have all shown that cows tend to perceive the red end of the spectrum better and they tend to perceive the greener and bluer tones much weaker. The virtual reality developers were able to design a one of a kind summer field simulation that was tailored to the cow’s vision requirements. The results to no surprise were genuinely positive. I just can’t help feeling that anything would be better than a Russian diary farm. According to the results there was a noticeable reduction in anxiety and that there showed an overall increase in mood for the herd of cows that were using the VR headsets. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Agriculture have stated that it is still too early at this point to accurately determine whether or not this agritech VR experiment will result in an increase in milk production, however the outlook seems to be pretty positive so far. And at least if the whole milk production thing doesn’t work out then the cows can get a few games of Trover Saves the Universe in instead.

Whilst agreeably ethically questionable, this is probably one of the more interesting uses of VR in agritech that I have heard about and leave that whole space wide open. Prior to these cow VR headsets, the best thing I had heard about was virtual crop scouting using drones and VR headsets. They can get access to all this data without ever having to actually touch the ground. This agritech VR can really help to reduce the amount of manpower that would typically be required.