078: Virtual Reality’s Impact on UD

Good Fit Poor Fit
Good Fit Poor Fit
078: Virtual Reality's Impact on UD

Show Notes:

Reactiv (Non-traditional OT Hannah Pugh is the Head of Clinical Experience)

Non-Traditional OT Course (Scroll to the bottom for this free course, which includes Hannah’s story and many others).

Residential Universal Design Building Code A course on this content will also be included with our other courses here.

Additional studies investigating how VR could be used within a variety of settings:

  • Feng, H., Li, C., Liu, J., Wang, L., Ma, J., Li, G., Gan, L., Shang, X., & Wu, Z. (2019). Virtual reality rehabilitation versus conventional physical therapy for improving balance and gait in Parkinson’s Disease patients: A randomized controlled trial. Medical Science Monitor: International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research, 25, 4186–4192. https://doi.org/10.12659/MSM.916455
  • Hussein, M., & Nätterdal, C. (2015). The benefits of virtual reality in education. A comparison study (Unpublished bachelor’s thesis). University of Gothenburg. https://gupea.ub.gu.se/bitstream/2077/39977/1/gupea_2077_39977_1.pdf


[00:00:00] Sarah: You’re Listening to Good Fit Poor Fit. A podcast that explores the interaction between people, design, and activity. Good Fit Poor Fit is part of The Universal Design Project, a nonprofit organization with a vision for every community across the USA to have a surplus of homes and opportunities for social participation that are universally and financially accessible.

[00:00:23] Learn more at universaldesign.org.

[00:00:27] Hi listeners, welcome back for another Good Fit, Poor Fit episode. Today I have Rebecca with me and our current OT student Brittany. Brittany is completing her doctoral capstone project on universal design and has done a lot of great research on how virtual reality or VR is being used for education, real estate, rehabilitation and how the use of VR can also be used alongside universal design.

[00:00:56] I’m excited to have her educate us today. But before we get to those details, let’s start by getting some background information on this topic, because I know Brittany has done countless hours of research on VR. Brittany, can you share with our listeners what virtual reality is? I know the first thing my mind goes to is people with headsets over their eyes in their living room, running into things.

[00:01:19] Brittany Wagner: Hi, Sarah. Thanks for having me back on Good Fit Poor Fit. Yes, I think that’s actually a very common image that comes to mind for a lot of people. And it’s not necessarily a wrong image as one of the really important things with VR is making sure you have enough room in your physical environment, such as the living room to engage in the VR safely.

[00:01:42] So yes, I have done a lot of research regarding VR and various areas it is being used in for my doctoral capstone project, and that is really what today’s episode is all about. We’re going to dive into virtual reality and how it can be used in a wide variety of industries and initiatives, including universal design.

[00:02:03] So to start, VR was first introduced in 1965, and when I used the term VR, I’m referring to it as a computer generated, simulated environment that is able to provide an immersive experience to the users. And with VR it can be set so there’s a virtual environment that the user’s able to physically walk around and navigate while engaging in this simulated environment.

[00:02:27] And depending on the environment or game you’re interacting with, you may even be able to fly, move within the environment, reach your hands out to objects and other really cool immersive experiences. I remember my first encounter with VR was a flight simulation game where I was the pilot and I was trying to land on a ship in the middle of the ocean, and so I had the headset on and then two hand controls and

[00:02:55] I mean, it really felt like you were in the cockpit trying to fly this plane. But back to the facts, VR has actually been around for a pretty long time and is becoming more popular among society as well, especially in the gaming industry. And to explain a little more about what you need for VR, you’re going to need a VR headset, which there’s actually many different options out there now.

[00:03:20] Some, I believe are even compatible with Samsung smartphones. There is a wide range in pricing also for these headsets, and they typically require additional items such as headphones, hand controls, a fairly powerful laptop or computer, H D M I cords, and other various tech items.

[00:03:40] Rebecca: That is interesting stuff. I didn’t know that VR had been around for so long, so that’s a fun fact, at least for me. So thanks for that, Brittany, this is all so new for us here at The Universal Design Project. I don’t think we’ve ever done an episode quite this tech heavy, but I’m excited about it. So, Brittany, can you tell our listeners about how you came to be interested in this and perhaps start to explain how you see this as something that could be used in universal design.

[00:04:08] Brittany Wagner: Yeah, so this is definitely a different focus here on Good Fit Poor Fit. So I became interested in the use of VR alongside Universal Design due to my Capstone project. I believe that by using VR to educate stakeholders in the housing industry, they’ll be able to take on a more realistic, firsthand experience of what a universally designed home looks like, how it can be used, and really how the design encourages independence, safety, accessibility, usability, and participation in everyday life.

[00:04:42] That being said, I did a deep dive into a lot of different avenues related to VR to complete my literature review for my project. I was able to find a lot of various areas that VR is used in, such as education, real estate, and home design and rehabilitation. My hope is that this podcast episode provides more insight into VR and how it can provide an immersive, realistic experience of a universally designed home and enhance education in this area. While it is still an emerging area of technology, there has been a rise in use and recognition of VR among many individuals.

[00:05:22] Sarah: Yeah, I’m excited to share more about VR to our listeners as well as learn something myself for how it could have a variety of applications besides gaming. As I’m thinking out loud here on your point of it being a realistic experience, one of the biggest things I think builders, designers, and consumers need these days is an immersive experience in seeing what UD looks like and people imagining themselves using the spaces in a home to do daily tasks from cooking, moving around the home and getting things out of their cabinets. Brittany and I are actually in the midst of creating images and renders to explain universal design, and I’m having a difficult time finding really good examples to share.

[00:06:07] Why? I think there’s just not a lot of great examples out there to pick from because it isn’t being utilized a lot in home design. I often ask people with disabilities if they think certain features would be helpful in a home, and they aren’t quite sure because they’ve just figured out how to make do with what is standard in their homes, and it’s often a compromise. Oftentimes, they’re not sure that there’s an option that could make their life easier. So I think VR could definitely be a solution here for when it’s not possible to physically be in a space to experience UD in a home.

[00:06:41] I also know that I am a visual learner, and being able to actually see an example of things is a big help for my understanding. So, Brittany, can you tell us more about how VR is being used for education?

[00:06:54] Brittany Wagner: Yeah, and that’s a really good point. And I believe there are a lot of visual learners out there who would benefit from a more immersive experience, just like you said. So let’s start with education. Obviously, as technology evolves and becomes more advanced, there’s a change in the way educational information is provided to individuals.

[00:07:14] VR has become a more prominent means to education as it provides students an immersive, engaging, and realistic environment or model that can improve knowledge among them. The use of VR in education has largely been seen among students, specifically in the architecture and design industry. So VR enables the students to feel as though they are really in the space, and that ultimately helps them better understand the environment they’re designing through a more holistic viewpoint.

[00:07:46] VR is proven to be an effective tool for enhancing visualization capabilities and also providing an increased understanding of these concepts learned in the classroom. It’s also highly motivating for students as it’s more engaging and makes learning more fun, and it can provide them with scenarios that require that deeper analysis and critique of their knowledge of the designs.

[00:08:11] And this ideally helps students interact with the concepts being taught through active participation within the virtual environment rather than through a passive means. So it really enables students to have an increased opportunity to make new discoveries and connections between related areas with a more hands-on experience and for professions directly involved in home design, learning by doing and having the chance to see designs in new perspectives is key for success. VR enables students to have enhanced learning opportunities that may not have been possible to teach in a traditional education model.

[00:08:49] Rebecca: When you were talking about being able to really see a space while designing it, this whole thing kind of started to click for me. I even think about projects we’ve done, kind of like Sarah said, and working with our design advisors trying to figure out the best way to show them. Different progress in designs, but even with things like virtual walkthroughs, it’s really tough.

[00:09:10] So I could definitely see where VR could be cool in that sense, especially for students who are learning or people whose main gig is not strictly design. And then even further, I could see VR being cool for people looking at spaces that maybe they’re thinking of visiting, renting, or even buying to see how the space feels and how it might function.

[00:09:30] But I think we’re gonna get a little bit into that later, aren’t we ladies?

[00:09:34] Brittany Wagner: Yes, we are. That is where we’re heading now. So when we think about real estate and VR, there’s a lot that it could be used for. VR and real estate can engage the prospective home buyers. It can assist in home sales and architectural design. Keep up to date with the wants of consumers and adapt to the changing industry.

[00:09:55] Years ago, it was unheard of to buy a home without physically seeing and walking the property. However, between COVID and different societal shifts toward a more accepting attitude of technology, the number of online websites showing available homes and pictures has really taken over the world of traditional home showings.

[00:10:16] While using websites to shop for a home can be more convenient for many, the risk of errors and falsifications in pictures or in the listing can be high. I mean, I’ve recently been looking for a home, and there have been times where a house looks awesome on the listing with the edited and professional pictures and virtual staging, but when you see the house in person, it looks nothing alike, and that is a problem.

[00:10:42] So when using VR rather than solely online websites, the risk of missing these possible errors can be reduced. VR really enables the potential home buyer to teleport themselves into this home. From anywhere directly to the property for sale or rent, which lowers the amount of time and money spent traveling to potential home sites.

[00:11:04] And this is a significant plus when considering those who might be moving out of state or who really don’t have the time to make it to an open house or showing due to other conflicts. And specifically in the market right now, if you miss those open houses or private showings, someone else is going to very quickly put an offer in and the house is off the market.

[00:11:26] Sarah: Yeah, definitely. I think the real estate market is pretty crazy right now, but I can see VR being a major factor in real estate, just as you described. When I met my now husband, Scott, he was doing some groundbreaking photography for real estate in the area of 360 pictures, which gave the ability for people to get the perspective of the entire room around them.

[00:11:48] Realtors would hire him to stand out with their listings and try to get sales by having the listings viewed online. Instead of just one view from a corner of the room, people could look at the space as if they were right in the middle of the room. Now, while this was a while ago, we can see technology advancing and people looking to get into all of those details in the home right from their couch as they move through their home, and I could see VR really doing that.

[00:12:14] I know for anyone searching for a home disability included, there are very specific details that they’re looking for, and having a realistic view of that home without being there is a huge selling point to getting in an offer before someone else. I can see this not only in real estate for selling homes, but for vacation rentals on VRBO and AirBnB.

[00:12:36] Rebecca: Here are again, Airbnb talking to you. Let’s hope someone who works there listens to this podcast. Sarah, I feel like we have shouted them out with ideas quite a few times here on Good Fit Poor Fit. But in all seriousness, I think this is a particularly cool idea. How awesome would it be to check out a space you’re looking to rent before you actually get there?

[00:12:56] Certainly would help alleviate some of the stress and let you avoid some unwanted surprises that can occur on the first day of a vacation, if you know what I mean.

[00:13:05] Sarah: Most definitely. So, Brittany, we’ve gone through education and in real estate. What have you found in your research for how VR is being used in rehabilitation?

[00:13:16] Brittany Wagner: Yeah, so if we wanna go into rehabilitation now, VR has made its way into that world as well. Studies that looked at the impact of VR on gait and balance among individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease actually found greater improvement in the gait and balance after a 12 week VR rehabilitation program when compared to conventional PT (Feng et al., 2019).

[00:13:40] It also found that using VR promoted increased engagement and motivation, reduced distraction and added fun to the therapy session. And as we know as OTs, this is likely to enhance the benefits and outcomes of therapy as well as improve general wellbeing and quality of life. A study also found that VR could largely improve mobility, which can improve one’s ability to perform self-care activities and decreases the level of care needed from a caregiver (Feng et al., 2019)..

[00:14:10] So when thinking of these potential benefits from an OT lens, I think it’s incredible and there’s so much room for growth in this area.

[00:14:18] Rebecca: I can certainly see that, Brittany. I will say, as much as I enjoy tech, I definitely have some reservations though. In the OT world, for example, these studies are compelling. But I do wonder about the functional piece. I can see where VR might be a fun way to build mobility, but I’d be curious to see how that translates to true mobility and self care tasks in the real life home functionally, I’m thinking, call me a skeptic, but I certainly wonder, and I know the technology is still evolving, so I’m sure that folks working on it are wondering the same. What do you think’s in store for the future of VR, Brittany?

[00:14:53] Brittany Wagner: Yeah, I agree. There is a lot more research that needs to be done, specifically related to the outcomes of using VR and its function and its relation to functioning within everyday tasks. As OTs, our main focus is on safety and promoting independence in those everyday functional activities. I believe future integration of VR can promote this, but yes, it is totally fair to have reservations, with there not currently being a ton of research supporting those functional outcomes. I believe that with increased awareness of how VR can be used in rehab, future studies will begin to focus on investigating these outcomes specifically related to tasks completed in real life. Ideally, VR will continue to become more accepted and used by individuals within the community or their home. And telemedicine has also largely emerged due to the pandemic and has shifted the way individuals receive medicine and therapy sessions.

[00:15:56] So with the implementation of VR in rehabilitation, many barriers could potentially be eliminated when used in conjunction with telemedicine or home-based therapies. We really should think about how it could improve cost savings for both the individual and clinic like travel time and lost work hours for caregivers and patients, access, means to receiving treatment and engagement in interventions.

[00:16:24] Don’t get me wrong, I do believe there is something to be said for in-person interactions and being face-to-face with people. However, by having a way to reduce barriers and increase supports within the environment, individuals are better equipped to participate in rehabilitation, have better outcomes and return to engaging in necessary tasks.

[00:16:46] Sarah: I am so glad you mentioned telemedicine and I guess this can sort of relate to your rehabilitation discussion too, but one of my non-traditional OT friends, Hannah Pugh, has used her knowledge in user experience and created her own virtual clinic for people who are struggling with using their hands and arms, whether it be from injury, arthritis, or other complications, she with a team created a gaming app @reactivrehab.com and I’ll put the links in the show notes.

[00:17:17] But if you’re taking notes here, there’s actually no E in reactiv in the web address, but she and her team have created an online clinic of sorts where people are doing exercises with their hands, arms, and shoulders, while playing a game. In addition, they have access to her knowledge as an OT to improve their pain and ability to do their daily tasks.

[00:17:37] Her Instagram account has lots of great tips. I actually did an interview with her that’s on our free non-traditional OT course. You can find that at go.universaldesign.org, along with some other OTs doing unique things like eh him, our very own Good Fit Poor Fit, co-host Rebecca, but OTs getting into this world of telemedicine and using VR and gaming was super cool to me, so you should check that out.

[00:18:02] It’s something that’s really gaining traction. Now that we’ve discussed how VR has been used in education and rehab, Brittany, how does this relate to the process and outcome of Universal Design?

[00:18:14] Brittany Wagner: So we know there’s already an urgent need to integrate UD into design education to enhance how these professional disciplines view the built environment they’re designing and how the design can really support or hinder one’s participation. One approach to enhancing knowledge of UD and showing students how the environment may hinder or support one’s life is by incorporating VR into learning. VR can make a difference at every level of education and help people learn by experiencing new environments, making these new connections and being motivated, it also provides users the ability to examine objects closeup, from a distance and with a new perspective, which may influence one’s understanding of UD and the restrictions that inaccessible homes can play on many individuals. And with these professions being able to immerse themselves in the simulated environment, they can experience the space as if they were disabled and become more attuned to possible design flaws before the project even breaks ground.

[00:19:21] And I wanna take a minute here and explain that even though these professionals could experience what it may be like to have a disability in a simulated virtual world, this by no means takes precedence over actually talking to people with various disabilities and how the built environment impacts their everyday life and engagement in tasks.

[00:19:43] This is simply one means to help express the limitations many individuals face every day. I wanna reiterate that the best means to learn and understand how the built environment truly impacts individuals is to meet with people. Let them tell you their story, listen and strive to make positive changes. That being said, I do think VR is and will be an integral tool to teaching concepts of UD as it will show design professionals and students direct examples of how their designs influence quality of life and may inhibit an individual’s daily life.

[00:20:22] By doing so, these professional disciplines will become more knowledgeable and conscious about how their designs influence others. Ideally leading to more accessible built environments with VR, 3D model, renderings of the drawn design plans can be created to help designers comprehend their design more clearly and interact with the design to identify possible areas of limitations.

[00:20:49] Sarah: I am glad that you mentioned that this isn’t a substitute for someone’s lived experience and definitely shouldn’t take place of collaboration between people with disabilities, those in the design industry and those in healthcare like OTs regarding the built environment. But I can see this as an interactive component to help experience the world from a different perspective and to be open to the idea of learning from those who experience life differently each day. Brittany, I know one of your goals for your capstone was to create some VR renders for a home design based on the UD code guidelines in our organization. But since we determined that that would probably take a little longer than a semester and a bit more collaboration from other professionals.

[00:21:31] Can you tell us why even just having images of designs will be helpful as a first step, even for increasing the demand of UD?

[00:21:40] Brittany Wagner: Of course, and yes, unfortunately we could not do the full VR proposal I had initially hoped to do, but that’s okay. We readjusted just like OTs learn to do, and I think creating these renderings are going to be really helpful for a lot of people. Having these visuals of what UD concepts are is so helpful and will continue to be even more helpful and utilized as one of the integral parts of the Design Guidelines for Universally Accessible Homes course, and through increased education regarding UD principles and the positive benefits VR has on enhancing education,

[00:22:21] there is no doubt that VR used in conjunction with UD and those directly involved in the home design process will further promote more inclusive designs. As we know, home design and construction is largely determined by consumer wants and demands. With increased knowledge of UD principles and a better understanding of how the built environment can both support and hinder quality of life and participation, there is hope that consumers, UD advocates and professionals involved in the home design process will begin asking for and creating universally designed homes. With more conversations surrounding UD, such as these podcasts episodes, professionals involved in the design process will need to learn more about UD and they’ll need to learn how to apply it to their own designs.

[00:23:13] Sarah: Yeah, we really need some good examples of UD to help increase demand, and hopefully as our course continues to evolve, we can show the masses some creative ideas for UD implementation. Brittany, did the literature say anything about how collaborative teams are using VR in the planning phase with builders, designers, OTs, and people with disabilities?

[00:23:34] Brittany Wagner: Yeah, I agree. And that’s a really great question. I do believe that if architects and builders created 3D models of their design plans before construction began, they would have a better opportunity to consider the use of UD features in the planning phase rather than as an afterthought. And by doing this, they can really help to improve quality of life and occupational engagement within the home environment for all people.

[00:24:02] Ideally, by using VR alongside UD users will have an immersive and realistic experience that provides a base foundation that begins understanding and seeing how beneficial UD is to promoting quality of life and independence for all.

[00:24:19] Sarah: Good points. And I’ll add that. Making sure you get the input of those people with disabilities and OTs in the VR experience of home design will also potentially catch features and elements that could be adjusted prior to finalizing the design and help to make sure that design isn’t missing something really important.

[00:24:38] Rebecca: Very. cool stuff, Brittany, thank you for doing all this research and sharing it with us and our listeners. I have learned quite a bit and I hope y’all at home have as well. Now everybody go strap on your VR headsets and enjoy the rest of your day and we’ll talk to you real soon.

[00:24:56] Sarah: Thanks for listening to Good Fit Poor Fit. I’m your host Sarah Pruett, Program Director and Occupational Therapist at The Universal Design Project. Learn more about our work at universaldesign.org, and find more episodes and links to subscribe at goodfitpoorfit.com If you have questions or topics you’d like to discuss, email us at [email protected].

[00:25:21] Thanks for fitting us into your day!


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