The desire to make a change has allowed me to make tremendous strides in both the research and the development of the application. Our team worked on the development of a virtual reality application to assist Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers, specifically during the sundowning period. Our app, DiscoVeR takes the user into three distinct worlds, a jungle, a city, and a farm. In each of the worlds, the user looks around to interact with the various objects and animals. Simply glancing at the animal assigns the user a quest to find a certain food/drink that the animal is looking for which appears randomly around the world. The user then finds the item and returns it to the animal. My favorite part of the application was a late addition, a music room. Instead of animals, the user interacts with various instruments and each glance plays a different clip of the respective instrument. Also included in the music room is a jukebox that contains about 20 classic songs that the elders should remember from their childhood and adulthood. Music therapy is a proven technique to help these patients, so including it in the application was a necessity.
Although a working application is currently completed, there are still many questions that need to be answered to further enhance the project. First off, the application needs to be tested with more seniors and those suffering from Alzheimer’s. What might make sense to us as the developers might not make sense to a senior citizen using the app, and that is something that has to be strongly taken into account. Directions need to be clear so that the senior is able to use the app with minimal difficulty. The potential additions to the application are endless, and our team of developers and researchers are constantly looking for ways to improve upon our project. The music room seems to be a favorite among those who have tried the app, so enhancing the features of that would be ideal. Customization of the songs in the jukebox along with the user adding their own pictures to a wall could make the experience different and personalized for each individual.
Working on the app thus far has been an awesome experience, and one that has only just begun. It really has expanded my knowledge into a field where I never saw myself taking any interest. It’s amazing to think how much of an impact this technology can truly have on these individuals with Alzheimer’s, and I am honored and ecstatic to be one of the many people working towards bettering the lives of all those involved!