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VR Tech Can Improve Anxiety and Depression in Adults with Disabilities

A study conducted by Western Sydney University (WSU) discovered that adults with disabilities experienced a significant decrease in symptoms of anxiety, and depression and improved sensory processing after using Evenness Virtual Reality (VR) Sensory Space technology.

The study, published in the Nature Scientific Reports Journal, found that using the Evenness VR Sensory Space technology, which includes immersive interactive visual, auditory, and tactile experiences, led to significant improvements for adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities such as autism and intellectual disability.

The study, which lasted for five months, included 31 adults with different neurodevelopmental disabilities and their caregivers. The goal of the study was to assess the feasibility and potential health benefits of using Evenness VR technology as a therapeutic intervention tool.

According to Dr Caroline Mills, a Co-Lead researcher at Western Sydney University’s School of Health Sciences and Translational Health Research Institute, the positive results of using immersive VR technology in the disability sector have the potential to shape new practices for organizations that assist individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

The team’s findings have shown that VR technology may offer a promising avenue for the provision of sensory interventions and an effective calming tool, with the most prominent benefit reported by users being a reduction in anxiety.

Professor Danielle Tracey, a co-lead author from Western Sydney University’s School of Education and Translational Health Research Institute, believes that the Evenness VR Sensory Space technology could be effectively used as a clinical intervention.

The authors of the study acknowledged the preliminary nature of the research and stated their intention to conduct more comprehensive studies in the future to further understand the benefits of the technology and to ensure that it can be effectively implemented in real-world settings to help those in need. The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Wollongong, in partnership with The Disability Trust and a tech company.

The Managing Director of the tech firm stated that the findings significantly support the evolution of the program. He noted that the team have allowed the company to improve and validate Evenness Sensory Space as they look to increase its positive impact on individuals, centres and communities around Australia.

According to the paper, the small-scale study was the first independent investigation of the Evenness VR Sensory Room. It had four core objectives:

  • To identify the reported benefits of the Evenness VR Sensory Room and the impact according to the user’s age, disability, initial needs or VR participation rate;
  • To evaluate the feasibility and implementation of the Evenness VR Sensory Room;
  • To identify improvements to future iterations of the product and process; and,
  • To understand the reported differences between the Evenness VR Sensory Room and the traditional physical sensory room.

The study adopted a single intervention pre-post mixed method design with 32 adults with disability participating in the Evenness VR Sensory Room.

Recent research has found that the virtual reality (VR) market is projected to expand from US$6.9 billion in 2021 to US$51.5 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate of 25.1%. This rapid growth can be attributed, in part, to the lack of regulation in the VR sector.

VR technology is increasingly being utilised as a powerful tool for virtual events, as event planners use it to offer visitors engaging and diverse experiences by hosting events on virtual platforms and presenting them as VR experiences. The rising popularity of virtual events is driving the market growth.

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