According to New Zealand’s latest research virtual reality to address mental health issues is showing potential. The new study was headed by a computer science senior lecturer and co-authored by a PhD student. The lecturer-student team is also conducting a Massey Strategic Research Excellence Fund-funded research project on intelligent customised VR for depression treatment. The project was inspired by the realisation that there is little study on using virtual reality to aid in the treatment of depression and even less work on providing patients with a tailored VR experience.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health, and it has already gotten a lot of press. The researchers conducted a scoping assessment of studies published between 2017 and 2021 that examined the use of virtual reality (VR) as a treatment for anxiety. Most studies found that using virtual reality to help the treatment of anxiety in a variety of situations was successful, and they suggested it as a tool for use in a clinical setting.
The ability to view the inside of the human body in Virtual Reality is not only useful for doctors, but also for patients. VR allows patients to be taken through their surgical plan by virtually stepping into a patient-specific 360° VR reconstruction of their anatomy & pathology. Hence, enhanced understanding of the treatment and consequently higher patient satisfaction.
New Zealand’s Otago University Mental Health Clinical Research Unit, Auckland Institute of Studies, Otago Polytechnic Auckland campus, and Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University collaborated on the study. It examined the ways VR exposure and interventions have been used in the treatment of mental health conditions, the technologies used, and how effective they have been as a treatment method.
The project’s original concept and outcomes were presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2020) and the 13th ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction conference on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems, respectively (EICS 2021).
To increase the quality of psychological treatments and improve mental health outcomes for New Zealanders, the project draws on the expertise of an interdisciplinary team of researchers working at the intersection of mental health, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. The senior lecturer in computer science believes the initiative will pave the way for the use of virtual reality in the mental health profession in New Zealand. “We believe our contribution can pave the way for large-scale efficacy testing, clinical use, and cost-effective delivery of intelligent individualised VR technology for mental health therapy across Aotearoa New Zealand in the future.”
OpenGov Asia reported that while many individuals are eager to get their vaccinations and prevent the deadly COVID-19 virus from spreading further, trypanophobia, or a fear of needles, is believed to be causing problems for a significant number of people across the country. Researchers from the University of Otago have collaborated with a tech firm to develop new software that uses virtual reality (VR) to distract patients who are frightened of needles so they can receive the injections they needed.
The programme had been tested out by patients in Christchurch when receiving influenza shots while wearing the VR headset. A patient claim that he could “barely tell” when the injection was taking place and that he would recommend the app to anyone who is afraid of needles. People with phobias or anxiety over things like flying, heights, spiders, and social situations could also benefit from it.
The application of virtual reality in mental health is a cutting-edge field with a lot of potential and that it will be fascinating to see where the field goes. This is especially true as standalone VR headsets become more inexpensive and certain models allow researchers to collect and analyse physiological data from participants.
A bionic eye being developed by a team of biomedical researchers at the University of Sydney and UNSW has shown to be safe and stable for long-term implantation in a three-month study, paving the way towards human trials. The Phoenix99 Bionic Eye is an implantable system, designed to restore a form of vision to patients living with severe vision impairment and blindness caused by degenerative diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa. The device has two main components which need to be implanted: a stimulator attached to the eye and a communication module positioned under the skin behind the ear.
Published in Biomaterials, the researchers used a sheep model to observe how the body responds and heals when implanted with the device, with the results allowing for further refinement of the surgical procedure. The biomedical research team is now confident the device could be trialled in human patients. The team will now apply for ethics approval to perform clinical trials in human patients, as they continue to develop and test advanced stimulation techniques.
The bionic eye works by stimulating the retina – a thin stack of neurones lining the back of the eye. In healthy eyes, the cells in one of the layers turn incoming light into electrical messages which are sent to the brain. In some retinal diseases, the cells responsible for this crucial conversion degenerate, causing vision impairment. The system bypasses these malfunctioning cells by stimulating the remaining cells directly, effectively tricking the brain into believing that light was sensed.
“Importantly, we found the device has a very low impact on the neurons required to ‘trick’ the brain. There were no unexpected reactions from the tissue around the device and we expect it could safely remain in place for many years,” said Samuel Eggenberger, a biomedical engineer who is completing his doctorate with the Head of School of Biomedical Engineering Professor Gregg Suaning.
The team is thrilled by the extraordinary result, which gives them the confidence to push on towards human trials of the device. It is hoped that through this technology, people living with profound vision loss from degenerative retinal disorders may be able to regain a useful sense of vision.
Professor Gregg Suaning said the positive results are a significant milestone for the bionic eye. He noted that the breakthrough comes from combining decades of experience and technological breakthroughs in the field of implantable electronics.
How the bionic eye works:
- A patient is implanted with the Phoenix99. A stimulator is positioned on the eye and a communication module is implanted behind the ear.
- A very small camera attached to glasses captures the visual scene in front of the wearer. The images are processed into a set of stimulation instructions.
- The instructions are sent wirelessly through the skin to the communication module of the prosthesis.
- The implant decodes the wireless signal and transfers the instructions to the stimulation module, which delivers electrical impulses to the neurons of the retina.
- The electrical impulses, delivered in patterns matching the images recorded by the camera, trigger neurons that forward the messages to the brain, where the signals are interpreted as a vision of the scene.
The researchers are in the process of seeking ethical approval for a human clinical study, as such, they are unable to recruit or accept expressions of interest at this time.
To gather information on emerging health care technologies, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is looking for capability, delivery and market information on a wide spectrum of clinical and administrative areas. The Accelerating VA Innovation and Learning program aims to gather enough information to inform possible procurements and identify interested parties for technologies ranging from advanced manufacturing and digital twins to Artificial Intelligence (AI), immersive-reality simulations and blockchain solutions.
According to the recent request for information, the VA wants insights into the design, development, manufacturing and testing of customised medical devices, such as anatomical models for pre-surgical planning, personalised prosthetics, surgical instruments, personalised dental equipment, assistive technologies and bio-fabrication.
When it comes to data transformation, VA is looking at decision-support and AI tools for chronic disease management in high-risk patient populations, vulnerable or underserved patient populations and those with acute conditions like sepsis. Application programming interfaces will be considered for data-driven care and administrative tasks. Synthetic data solutions are also of interest. The VA expects these data solutions to integrate with the existing VA workflows, clinical information systems and product lines.
About digital twins, VA wants contractors to evaluate the feasibility of virtual models as architectural blueprints for planned or future clinical spaces and facilities like an exam or operating rooms and also to speed adoption of emerging technologies, like 3D printing, into clinical care.
Digital twin solutions should consider virtual and augmented reality and be able to model future clinician and operational workflows for resource forecasting, the RFI said.
Additionally, VA requests contractor insights into 5G-enabled or augmented technology solutions that could improve real-time remote and virtual care delivery and bring greater connectivity with edge devices. Examples include AR-guided surgical navigation and patient wearables.
For patients, VA is interested in immersive and simulation technologies that it can use for alternative therapies for mental health disorders, clinical training, virtual individual and/or group clinical visits and virtual rehabilitation. For clinical use, it wants to hear about simulation solutions that would help it integrate emerging technology and workflow optimisation tools.
On the business side, the VA is looking for information on innovative clinical and business models that would enhance or streamline existing VHA processes, improve veteran health outcomes and save money. Strategic planning, program and project scheduling support services are also of interest.
Contractors are expected to provide programmatic and implementation support for solutions as well as assistance with replication and scaling, measurement and analytic support. All deliverables are expected to take the form of monthly progress reports, which will serve as a barometer for both progress in implementation and for insights gained during the process.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, the U.S. has been using technologies, specifically AI in the healthcare industry. AI has the potential to help doctors accurately diagnose patients and predict the risk for complex diseases. Using AI, one can generate models that health care providers can use to predict patients’ risk for heart disease, cancer and various other conditions. However, AI must be trained using data from multiple providers to make the models accurate.
While health care generates vast amounts of data year after year, most of it isn’t available because of the need to protect identifiable patient information. With limited data access, AI models often aren’t as reliable in the real world, limiting how they can be used within healthcare.
To expand AI applications while still protecting patient data, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has committed $1 million toward a one-year collaborative research project. The goal of the project is to create a secure AI framework that enables health care organisations to improve AI models used in biomedicine while keeping sensitive data secure.
A key data centre service provider headquartered in Singapore has announced the construction of its fourth hyperscale data centre (MY06), the largest of its kind in Johor, Malaysia. This will involve an investment value of RM2.5 billion over the next 5 years. The data centre service provider has set Phase 1 of the project to be in place by end of 2022 with Phase 2 expected to be in completion shortly thereafter. The Bridge Data Center (BDC) development strategy aims to connect all the provider’s parent company’s data centres using dark fibre connectivity, linking with the Malaysian Cable Landing Station to increase the reach of global connection.
The president of the data centre service provider stated that the company is proud to be able to continue its expansion journey in Malaysia. This hyperscale campus with three buildings marks its commitment to scalable and reliable solutions and comes with massive hiring and investment opportunities within the industry. Approximately located on 40 acres of land area, the hyperscale campus will operate at a combined capacity of 100 MW IT load located strategically within Kidex Sedenak, the jewel component of the larger 7,290 acres of the Sedenak Technology Valley.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) said that the data centre space is economically significant to Malaysia’s transformation towards an advanced digital nation, paving the way for modern businesses. The Digital First Programme, with the goal of increasing the use of cloud computing in the public sector announced as part of Budget 2022, signifies the need for data centres as the key to digital transformation, he noted. He added that MIDA is excited to see the data centre service provider’s commitment to fortifying its presence in Malaysia. It is a strong testimony and confidence in the country’s position to become a regional data centre hub.
MIDA and MDEC, through the Digital Investment Office, whose role it is to attract and facilitate all digital investments in Malaysia, in line with MyDigital Blueprint and National Investment Aspirations (NIA) will continue their efforts in transforming new and existing economic clusters as digital enablers, create high-income jobs and encourage digital upskilling of the local workforce and businesses, he added.
The CEO of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) noted that the establishment of this hyperscale campus is not only a testament to Malaysia’s strength as the digital hub of ASEAN but also to the country’s perpetual efforts in driving a progressive and inclusive digital economy.
The new campus will benefit the people through the creation of new jobs and towards accelerating emerging technology adoption while showcasing Malaysia’s capabilities and capacities in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The CEO also thanked the provider for their continued confidence and support of Malaysia’s digital economy.
In accordance with the Malaysian Government’s nationwide aspiration to achieve 50% of the cloud adoption through cloud data centres for 5G adoption by 2024, the data centre services provider is committed to investing in the growing data centre economy that is expected to grow significantly in this region.
About the Digital First Programme
The MyDigital initiative aims to spur the digital transformation of the civil service, with 80% of its operations to be stored on the cloud by 2022 in line with a push towards cloud computing.
To that end, the Digital First Programme was announced as part of Budget 2022, with the goal of increasing the use of cloud computing in the public sector, thereby reducing the use of physical storage and inculcating a paperless culture.
The National Digital Identity (NDI) project was also set to start next year, where the identity verification platform would enable various transactions to be conducted digitally and safely.
China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) recently released an announcement to openly select projects of sci-tech experiments and applications from the country at large to board the Tianzhou cargo spacecraft. The project application is open for government organisations, research institutions, educational institutions, enterprises and industry groups.
Any project that faces the sci-tech frontier, meets the requirement of national development strategy and sci-tech development trend, or is forward-looking, innovative or has industrial development value can submit the application.
Tianzhou-3 and Tianzhou-2 were launched on Sept. 20 and May 29 respectively this year, to transport supplies and materials for the construction of China’s space station. Tianzhou cargo spacecraft series was independently developed by China. Their operation orbit is no higher than 450 km, with a maximum load of 6.5 tonnes and a one-year in-orbit flight time. The in-orbit construction of China’s space station is going smoothly as planned. After completion, it will enter the stage of application and development, with two Tianzhou spacecraft launched on averagely each year.
Aside from the cargo supply, they will also provide an open and shared platform for space science and technology experiments and application projects. This is the first time for China’s manned space mission to open its cargo craft payloads to the public.
Previously, the CMSA cooperated with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs on the application of China’s space station to provide opportunities to carry out application experiments. There have been nine projects from 17 countries being selected, which are in the fields of space life science and biotechnology, space astronomy, and microgravity fluids and combustion.
China has built 17 national Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovative development pilot zones. In 2019, China started to build a new generation of national AI innovative development pilot zones, relying on local governments to carry out technology demonstrations, policy pilots, and social experiments. According to a document released by the Ministry of Science and Technology, China plans to build around 20 AI pilot zones by 2023.
Aiming at addressing the major fundamental issues of international significance and China’s national strategic needs, China has been conducting scientific experiments and research in the areas of life sciences, fluids, combustion, material sciences and basic physics, as well as astronomy and earth observation studies, along with verifications of new technologies for space applications, to improve the level of space science and achieve overall application benefits.
The Chinese government decided to implement the manned space program and prescribed the “three-step strategy” of development. The first step is to launch a manned spaceship, set up primarily integrated experimental manned spacecraft engineering, and carry out space application experiments.
The second step is to make technology breakthroughs in extravehicular activities as well as space rendezvous and docking of manned spaceships and spacecraft, launch a space lab, and provide a solution for space application of a certain scale with man-tending on a short-term basis. The third step is to establish a space station, and provide a solution for space application on a larger scale with man-tending on a long-term basis.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, China has made great achievements in scientific and technological innovation during the 13th Five-Year Plan period. As China embarks on a new journey to build a modern socialist country in all respects, sci-tech innovation will play a vital role in promoting the country’s overall development.
China launched the Tianwen-1 mission, comprising an orbiter, lander and rover. The rover Zhurong has travelled more than 1,000 meters since it landed on Mars. The Chang’e-5 probe, comprising an orbiter, a lander, an ascender, and a returner has also been launched.
An advanced approach to fixing wear damaged rails in remote locations using repair technology has been shown to be viable for large-scale use in neutron scattering experiments. Researchers from Monash University and ANSTO collaborated with engineers from the Institute of Railway Technology (IRT), the premier track and vehicle railway research centre in Australia as well as a sovereign heavy manufacturing company to develop a reliable and efficient laser-based rail repair technology.
The team used a nuclear technique at ANSTO’s Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering on the Kowari instrument to evaluate a laser cladding repair technique, which is an established method to repair high-value components in other industries on heavy haul rails. The method could increase the service life of rails and reduce maintenance time and costs, as repairing rails is preferable to replacing them.
The project’s industry partner, an ARC Linkage project partner, has vast experience and expertise in the use of laser cladding technology for manufacturing and repairs in the mining sector. Heavy haul rails repairs, however, present significant challenges to the manufactures as they cannot be performed in the controlled environment of the factory but rather need to be done in the remote areas of the Australian outback.
In research published in the Journal of Materials Processing Technology, they conclude that advanced laser technology could be used on heavy haul rails and that detrimental stresses could be reduced or mitigated from critical regions of the repair. With laser cladding, repairs are made by coating the damaged rail surface with a stainless steel or cobalt-based alloy in single or double layers using laser technology.
“Laser cladding can deposit these beneficial materials onto damaged areas but can also introduce or re-distribute residual stresses,” explained Taposh Roy, Monash PhD graduate, currently a Project Engineer Melbourne Metro Trains.
Investigators used neutron scattering on the Kowari strain scanner on a full-scale railhead to measure residual stresses created by the heat generated by the laser during the cladding deposition process (pictured above). As part of this, the team developed a new procedure to evaluate residual stresses in thick sections of full-scale cladded rails. Only neutrons can penetrate through the deep surface of the rail material, and measure full triaxial stress distribution non-destructively with little preparation.
To acquire measurements in small gauge volumes on a large path length through the steel, they made blind holes in the sample. Taking measurement at the middle of the two holes, also avoided a disturbance of local stresses. The team found that the application of a post cladding heat treatment significantly reduced the residual stresses from the surface and the subsurface of the cladded rails. The method appears to be superior to conventional arc weld based cladding methods, the most common technique to repair wear damage in rails.
“These successful in-house repair trials are very encouraging to explore further the application of this technology as a portable and mobilised unit, that can be deployed to address the rail maintenance problems in remote areas of Australia,” said Prof Anna Paradowska, Industry Engagement Manager, Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering and Conjoint Professor The University of Sydney.
About the Kowari – Strain Scanner
Kowari is a neutron scattering instrument. It is among the best residual stress diffractometers from neutron facilities around the world. Kowari started its operation for users in 2009. After a few years of operation, ANSTO sees a certain future of the instrument. In Australia, they are seeing the major usage being in problems with steel (and to a lesser extent aluminium-alloy) components, particularly welds.
This reflects the nature of Australia’s dominant industries: mining, power generation and transmission, shipbuilding, railways, construction (for instance of sports stadia), life extension of defence assets, and so on.
In Europe and the USA, there is a greater emphasis on higher value-added applications from the aerospace, defence and automotive industries, where composite and other unconventional materials are increasingly being used.
Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) activated a new long-range radar in New Taipei’s Gongliao District that will be an upgrade of its existing system that has been in service for over 20 years. The new radar system installed in Sandiaojiao, Taiwan’s easternmost point that also features a lighthouse, will be used to monitor the movements of civilian aircraft through the Taipei Flight Information Region (FIR)
The long-range radar system should also be able to assist the military in monitoring the movements of People’s Liberation Army aircraft around Taiwan. The CAA’s Air Navigation and Weather Services department currently has 11 radar systems across the country, including nine terminal area radar systems and two long-range radar systems, both of which have been in use for over two decades.
The Taipei FIR is an important aviation hub for East Asia that controls 18 international air routes to the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea and China. The new long-range radar in Sandiaojiao is a modern system that can more accurately detect the position, distance and altitude of aircraft, while also ensuring the safety of the routes.
– Wang Kwo-tsai, Transportation Minister
The new radar is part of the CAA’s NT$676 million (US$24.34 million) modernization project initiated in 2019 to upgrade its two ageing long-range radar systems, with the other being in Eluanbi at Taiwan’s southernmost point. Work on the two systems began on Dec. 7, 2020, and the system in Eluanbi is still being tested but is expected to start operations in January 2022.
According to the agency, the two new long-range radars each consist of primary and secondary surveillance units. The primary units are capable of detecting flights within 220 nautical miles (407.44 kilometres) and are able to monitor up to 1,000 flights at a time. The secondary units are equipped with Mode S functionality that can detect flights within 250 nautical miles and monitor up to 900 flights at a time.
According to a page, the primary focus of Taiwan’s Long-term National Space Technology Development Programme is satellite development. Having laid the foundation for indigenous space technology in the first and second phases of the programme, the nation is now launching the third phase, which will run from 2019 to 2028.
The programme aims to push domestic aerospace technology to new heights and meet the challenges of cutting-edge space missions. At the same time, the programme also aims to extend and spread the benefits of the aerospace technology industry, nurture space technology talent, and build an aerospace industry supply chain of Taiwan’s own.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, given the significance of space technology, the President of Taiwan vowed to place space technology at the heart of Taiwan’s industrial development plans through enhanced academia-industry-government collaboration. The President’s statement underscored the government’s commitment to cementing the country’s position in global supply chains.
Space development is one of the Taiwanese government’s top priorities, as demonstrated by the passing of the Space Development Act and a plan to invest US$906.62 million in the space sector over the next decade. Taiwan has six core strategic industries which comprise information and digital technology; cybersecurity; biotech and medical technology; national defence; green and renewable energy; and strategic stockpile industries. This will help secure Taiwan’s technological leadership while capitalising on business opportunities such as the launch of low-orbit satellites.
The President also emphasised that Taiwan must secure a strategic position in the space industry’s supply chain by leveraging its competitive edge in semiconductor and precision engineering. To that end, Taiwan’s leader called for cooperation between governments, the private sector and academia to launch a local team dedicated to manufacturing satellites and ground station equipment as soon as possible.
To improve access to mental health support in Singapore, a digital mental health platform and a pharmaceutical firm have signed an exclusive partnership to provide more access to biopsychosocial care to people in Singapore. The collaboration aims to counter the stigma surrounding mental health and bridge the gap in treatment.
This collaboration, which will connect psychosocial professionals such as Counsellors and Psychologists, to healthcare providers such as Psychiatrists and Primary Care doctors, is the first of its kind to join key facets of the mental health care ecosystem on one platform for users and aims to set the standard for holistic mental healthcare.
Under this partnership, the platform will provide free access to counselling or psychological support for three months via its mobile app. The app also includes composite self-service content, tracking and one-on-one behavioural coaching and therapy. The pharmaceutical firm will help Singapore connect psychosocial and pharmacological care, which also adds value to their practice.
– Countering Stigma on Mental Health
According to a page, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is one of the leading causes of out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures in the Asia-Pacific region, and up to 90% of people living with MDD do not seek help. In Singapore, the treatment gap for the condition stands at over 73% according to a study by the Institute of Mental Health, due to stigma as well as accessibility issues attributed to fragmented care models between biological and psychological care.
The treatment gap for MDD can be significantly narrowed with proper mental healthcare infrastructure in place and timely care delivery. Countering stigmas associated with seeking help, increasing psychosocial education, and providing seamless access to psychological as well as pharmacological care is paramount in bridging the treatment gap.
Providing Mental Health Support Via Mobile app
One of the main goals of the partnership is to pioneer more seamless access to biopsychosocial care for the community with their combined expertise in pharmacological and psychosocial care respectively. The initiative will not only deepen cross-sectorial synergies within the mental healthcare provider ecosystem but also provide access to psychosocial support via the mobile app and the chat.
The pandemic has revealed the urgency and necessity for resources and opportunities for mental health support, given how the stressors of life can lead to and even exacerbate underlying mental health conditions. This is compounded by social distancing, which is important to decelerate the spread of COVID-19 yet disrupts social rhythm and deprives people of their regular coping mechanisms.
The partnership started based on a shared purpose to challenge the stigmas associated with mental health and to develop a digital mental health space that will help support the mental healthcare ecosystem in Singapore.
The platform’s focus lies in providing psychosocial support to users through its proprietary architecture on its mobile apps; the partnership will see the pharmaceutical complement this approach, elevating the biopsychosocial ecosystem for mental health support in Singapore by connecting psychosocial and pharmacological care to add value to their practice and thus address current treatment gaps. Ultimately, the partnership will enable greater accessibility to precise and timely mental health care.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Singapore has implemented a National Mental Health Strategy to address. A national effort to promote mental health and well-being beyond the COVID 19 epidemic has now been set up through a new interagency task force. This will expand the existing COVID-19 Task Force on Mental Wellness (CoMWT), which was first organised by the Ministry of Health (MOH) last October to address the worldwide pandemic’s mental health concerns.
A key part of the strategy is the development of an online portal through the Health Promotion Board of the Singapore Ministry of Health, which serves as an inventory of mental health resources. The site contains “expert-cured” content for mental and well-being. It is a resource for “individuals who need information for themselves or their loved ones.” The web and mobile app platform in which the Ministry hosts a range of health content, benefits, and e-services will be introduced.