KOVR receives Alberta Innovates grant for new VR software platform and education module - KOVR

KOVR receives Alberta Innovates grant for new VR software platform and education module

by AaronC

A person experiences the Through the Looking Glass VR experience at the 2019 Eye Ball Gala

In March of 2020, KOVR, in partnership with the University of Alberta, was awarded a grant from Alberta Innovates to further our work in developing VR experiences for health and education. As a result, this work has fueled the development of a new software platform called Stratos. This platform provides a virtual educational environment by which different VR experience modules for the Oculus Quest and other VR capable devices can be deployed.

Our first module created for the Stratos platform will be the Diabetic Retinopathy Module (DRM), based off of the initial software experience we developed with Dr. Karim Damji, Chair of the University of Alberta’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and lead ophthalmologist with the Eye Institute of Alberta. DRM simulates the patterns of vision loss related to conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts, that can be directly attributed to the long-term effects of living with diabetes. We showcased this virtual experience at the 2019 Eye Ball Gala, hosted by the Eye Institute of Alberta. Guests at the gala who partook in the virtual experience navigate a fantasy world, completing minor tasks while experiencing these common patterns of vision loss.

For the version of DRM we’re rolling out to clinics, we stripped away the fantasy world and are creating everyday scenarios in which to experience the simulated vision loss. The same kind of minor tasks still need to be completed in this scenario, but the tasks increase with difficulty as the vision loss worsens for the patient. Even something as seemingly simple as retrieving a carton of milk from the fridge suddenly requires a whole different way of thinking and navigating the environment, highlighting how vision loss, as associated with diabetes, has an impact on so many different aspects of normal living.

Currently, the DRM is in its alpha testing phase, and we’re receiving regular feedback from researchers and clinicians on how to improve this experience. By January, 2021, DRM will be in its beta testing phase and clinicians across Alberta will have the opportunity to let patients begin using the VR technology. After this beta test is complete, we will be able to release DRM, and the Stratos platform, to institutions and health care professionals around the globe.

Future opportunities with Stratos

Though the first module we developed is focused on eye health, Stratos’ capabilities extend far beyond patterns of vision loss. Stratos is a unique launching pad for incorporating VR into educational and training software, making its possibilities and benefits seemingly endless.

The DRM is a result of a long collaboration with Dr. Damji. The expertise in ophthalmology he shared with us allowed us to create an accurate depiction of vision loss as a result of diabetes. With partners possessing expertise in a range of other fields, we can begin adding to the module collection for Stratos, allowing more people to use VR technology to help them gain a better understanding of the world around them. Future iterations will actually allow content experts to create their own modules while in VR!

Even more exciting is the burgeoning economic sector in Alberta. Technology development in our province has been steadily increasing in recent years. No matter if it’s patient education, classroom education or skilled training, virtual education platforms can improve educational experiences and increase overall learning satisfaction — while decreasing the overall expense of hands-on education, and even decreasing the training risk associated with certain topics or skills. Now, here is an opportunity to help make Alberta a leader in health and education VR technology.

Healthcare and educational needs are rapidly evolving. Immersive technologies like VR offer ample opportunity to meet and exceed those needs, while making a global impact on how we share our knowledge. Through Stratos, your business can be part of that impact.

If you’re interested in seeing how your organization could benefit from developing a new immersive experience on Stratos, contact the team at KOVR.