Deepstream VR: Using Virtual Reality to alleviate pain

Deepstream VR is creating virtual reality games and tying them up with biofeedback sensors to develop experiences which help patients surmount pain. This has the potential to not only reduce pain effectively but also reduce opioid addiction.

“What if instead of prescribing medicines doctors could prescribe virtual reality content to alleviate pain and help one in developing mental toughness.” – Howard Rose (founder, Firsthand Technology and DeepStream VR) [1]
This is what an organization Deepstream VR is trying to achieve through VR games that it is developing. With an aim to become the world leader in using virtual reality for pain relief it aspires to bring VR software in the health care market for pain alleviation. [2]

Value Creation:

Building on a decade of research of using virtual reality for pain management and resilience building [3], they are creating intelligent VR games with biofeedback to help people in achieving better health and wellness.

On the software side DeepStream VR has created two games Cool! And Glow.

Cool!

Cool! is a VR game where the main action is to take a journey through an interactive landscape and play paintball with otters. The game’s difficulty levels can be set at a laidback level or playing hard and the use of biofeedback sensors helps people to effortlessly get in a comfort zone. [4][5]

Cool! is used for treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for war veterans and has been used on patients for pain relief.

A video describing the game is available at http://firsthand.com/cool-video/ [7]

Glow!

Glow! is a VR game used for building mindfulness and resilience. In Glow!, the user is immersed in a virtual forest full of distant, flitting fireflies. When the player closes their hands, they activate their “force,” which they use to draw fireflies in. The strength and range of this “force” directly correlates with the readings from the heart-rate monitor that the player is wearing. The more relaxed the player is, the more fireflies he/she can draw in. One “wins” the game by lowering the heart rate enough to max out the force, draw in all the fireflies, mesh them into a singular glowing mass, and ultimately, feed them to a mythical lantern creature that appears out of a pond. [6]

This essentially acts as a shortcut to mindfulness. [6]

A video describing the game is available at http://firsthand.com/glow-video/ [8]

The underlying idea is that when patients are immersed in virtual reality environments, the parts of their brains that handle stress and pain get much quieter. Instead of being focused on the pain, the brain is able to shift focus to other functions like coping, cognition and resilience. [9]

Alongwith the above two games they have also developed the VR controller, the heart rate monitor and the biofeedback sensors to enable the playing of the games and thus the treatment.

Value Capture

They currently offer a subscription package ($125/mo) for Cool! and Glow! for unlimited commercial and professional usage – known as VRPro. In addition, they offer a sensor hardware bundle for $230. [10][11]

They also offer a GlowPack for $300 comprising of just the Glow! game for personal usage and the sensor hardware bundle. [12]

Status and Way Forward

The sales number are not available in the public. However they have done tests with real patients and the results have been very encouraging. For example in one study on 30 patients, pain was reduced from pre-session to post-session by 33% and from pre-session to during session by 60%. All participants reported some degree of pain reduction between pre and during session. [13]

According to Dr Ted Jones (at the Behavioral Medicine Institute at the Pain Consultants of East Tennessee), morphine reduces pain by 30% at best. [14] And with 2.1 million people in the US alone addicted to prescription pain pills, the need to find effective non-pill based solutions for pain relief is dire.[14]

However, challenges remain such as the technology’s over use or unsupervised usage can lead to motion sickness. [15]

Despite the challenges the way VR is being used for pain relief is just incredible – for eg. A patient Ana Maria stayed awake during an entire operation immersed in the world of VR as the surgeon operated to remove a lipoma. [16]

Way forward the company should focus on these areas

  1. Increased testing to figure out the right use cases which do not have side effects
  2. Develop curated games and products for the various kinds of pain scenarios that patients go through
  3. Developing the right business model for use in hospitals but also use by patients at home and making them available for multiple VR platforms such as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
  4. Making the sensor hardware and the game readily available

I believe that if the company focuses on these solutions, there is a lot of potential in using VR for pain relief in various scenarios.
Resources:

[1] http://firsthand.com/about-vr/

[2] https://uploadvr.com/deepstream-vr-pain-relief/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3138477/

[4] https://hopefulheadlines.org/2016/08/27/mind-over-matter-how-virtual-reality-is-changing-the-healthcare-game/

[5] http://firsthand.com/products/

[6] http://www.seattleweekly.com/arts/seattles-virtual-road-to-transcendence/

[7] http://firsthand.com/cool-video/

[8] http://firsthand.com/glow-video/

[9] http://fortune.com/2016/11/01/arianna-huffington-pain-virtual-reality-brainstorm-health/

[10] http://firsthand.com/product/vr-pro-unlimited/

[11] http://firsthand.com/product/hardware-bundle/

[12] http://firsthand.com/product/glowpack/

[13] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0167523

[14] https://hopefulheadlines.org/2016/08/27/mind-over-matter-how-virtual-reality-is-changing-the-healthcare-game/

[15] https://static1.squarespace.com/static/576021baf8baf35dd2d95993/t/57c24d01f7e0ab69ed1e8d06/1472351490834/TIME_2016_David.pdf

[16] https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/01/virtual-reality-pain/515103/?utm_source=twb

[17] https://firsthand.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/VR-MOA-Slide-2.jpg

 

Previous:

TheWaveVR: A Musical Metaverse

Leave a comment