➣ Professor Dr. Brenda K. Wiederhold
Dear Reader, Welcome to the inaugural issue of Cyber – Therapy & Rehabilitation Magazine (C&R), the official voice of the International Association of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation (IACR). IACR is an international association that has been created with the goal of disseminating knowledge about exciting new findings being made to transform healthcare through the addition of cutting edge technologies.
An exciting body of research regarding the utilization of advanced technologies in the areas of training, therapy, education, prevention, and rehabilitation has emerged over the past fifteen years, revealing developments and discoveries made by over 450 clinicians and researchers. Advanced technologies—such as virtual reality (VR), robotics, non-invasive physiological monitoring, e-health, and adaptive displays—are now being applied to several areas of healthcare, including physical and cognitive rehabilitation, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and obesity, addictions, stress management, and as a distraction mechanism during painful or anxiety-provoking medical or dental procedures. These technologies are also providing for improved quality of life for populations such as the elderly and the disabled.
An increasing number of agencies are recognizing the huge potential of technology to dramatically improve 21st century healthcare. The European Commission, in its last three frameworks, has invested heavily in research support of e-health and simulation technologies applied to healthcare and e-inclusion. The European Union, as well as individual governments within Europe, has recognized the critical role that advanced technologies can play in both prevention and treatment. As well, in the United States, forward-thinking organizations such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Defense (DoD) continue to support simulation for training, education, and therapeutic interventions.
IACR believes there is an urgent need to develop a set of standards and a “roadmap” for future directions. Since this is a rapidly growing field with significant implications to change healthcare as we know it, it is critical that there be a unified voice which brings together thought leaders and provides a forum to speak with policymakers, decision makers, and funding agencies to voice our needs and help shape research agendas. There is also a critical necessity to provide a central repository of information for those in both the general public as well as the scientific community who are eager to learn more about how technology can enhance healthcare.
This publication will serve as a catalyst whereby society may rapidly benefit from the remarkable technological revolution that is occurring, with the ultimate aim of improving the quality of today’s healthcare, helping to quickly disseminate research results, and ultimately elevating the level of care available for each citizen. Currently a considerable knowledge base exists; however, there is no unified plan for the future of best practices for adding advanced technologies to existing clinical protocols. IACR aims to be the organization that brings ideas and decision makers together. Topics C&R intends to address include:
- Large-scale display technologies including 3-wall CAVES.
- Low-cost videogame-based simulations including inexpensive handheld devices, portable consumer products, and other low-cost mobile, wireless, and patient-friendly interfaces.
- Next-generation immersive head-mounted displays (HMDs) which might include retinal displays.
- Low-cost, interactive haptic devices that can be used in the home for education, training, and healthcare delivery.
- Easy-to-use software that allows for realtime creation of any environment from digital photographs.
- Object-oriented software for the creation of digital avatars that can rapidly be made to perform any type of movement, action, or complex series of commands.
Other thought-provoking questions that C&R hopes to explore are:
- How can simulation tools become both doctor and patient-friendly?
- How can virtual environments and internet- based therapies be created so that they automatically respond and morph based upon a predetermined set of criteria established by the therapist?
- What type of interface needs to be created so that a continuum from the therapist’s office to the patient’s home and place of employment (etc.) exists?
- How can technologies be specifically focused to meet the needs of varied patient populations, their families, and caregivers?
In this first issue, we begin our process of discovery by exploring both currently available technologies as well as some of their present applications. We begin with an introduction to “VR in healthcare” in our features section. Since many of today’s applications employ HMDs, you will find information on some of the currently available HMDs in our product comparison chart and surrounding pages. This issue’s country focus is on Spain. Take a moment to read what cutting-edge re searchers are doing throughout the country.
I hope you will enjoy reading our publication and find it informative and beneficial for you. Always striving to meet the needs of our readers, your suggestions and contributions are always welcome. Please contact me, or Daniel Stevens, Managing Editor, at office@vrphobia. eu with your comments, which we believe are vital to our continued growth.
Create your own reality!
President of Virtual Reality Medical Institute (VRMI) in Brussels, Belgium. Executive VP Virtual Reality Medical Center (VRMC), based in San Diego and Los Angeles, California. CEO of Interactive Media Institute a 501c3 non-profit Clinical Instructor in Department of Psychiatry at UCSD Founder of CyberPsychology, CyberTherapy, & Social Networking Conference Visiting Professor at Catholic University Milan.