Appropriate viewer content should be a key consideration when offering virtual reality experiences as part of residential care lifestyle programs, a leading technology provider says.

Marc Pascal, Director of BuildVR says many of the programs offered as part of virtual reality packages have been developed for generation X, Y and millennials and often are not what interests elderly people nor helps them to relax. This was the inspiration of their leading product in Aged Care, SolisVR.

“We spent over a year working with producers from around the world to source and create content that people would enjoy – the types of experiences people may have made during their life time or they may have dreamed about doing,” Mr Pascal said.

“Making appropriate content available is extremely important if you’re going to offer virtual reality experiences. Some packages are reliant on streaming content from the web, but if you have poor connectivity it’s not going to work.”

Solis VR launched in the Australian marketplace in 2015 and has seen strong interest from aged care providers, especially since launching a rental scheme that enables providers to rent headsets complete with content on a monthly basis.

Its clients include Japara, Opal, BlueCross and Southern Cross, with some providers offering headsets in all residential care homes.

“We are often asked if residents will really use the headsets, and the answer is yes. We’ve had such a positive response from people in aged care.”

“I’ve had residents shake my hand and not let go, they’re so happy to have the next big thing brought to them. They feel like they get great respect from being up with the latest technology.”

“It is easy to use and very intuitive, so people who are not accustomed to using technology pick it up very quickly.”

“Most of our clients are purchasing our packages as a form of diversion therapy, especially during the sun-downer stage for clients who may become agitated as the end of the day or are in high care.”

“Being able to immerse yourself in a relaxing experience can completely change how a person feels at the end of day, and make everyone’s lives a bit easier.”

In terms of usage, Mr Pascal says 20 minutes is about how long people will usually stay engaged, roughly the length of a television program.

“One of our experiences is canoeing and it goes for about five minutes, though I’ve seen people play it over and over because it is offers such a calm, relaxing escape.”

The GearVR headsets that Solis uses can be visually navigated, so a user can look their way around for different experiences, giving people with limited function the opportunity to enjoy experiences independently.

Alternatively carers can control the headset using functions on the right hand side. It can also be synced with a tablet so a carer or family member can see what someone is experiencing in real time.

Content is uploaded to Samsung S7 that comes as part of the package and the phone is placed inside the headset. Other headsets need to be linked to computers and many tech review sites claim the quality of the visual is not as good.

The headsets themselves are light and come with removable coverings where it rests on a person’s face.

“Another thing we are often asked by carers is if people will wear the headsets or if they need it held up for them. Nine out of 10 people will wear it. It’s not heavy though the straps can be removed for people to hold it to their face if they prefer.”

Rental sets start at $150 per month from BuildVR’s partner Kowa Australia, while a set can be purchased outright for $2,800 ex GST.