A Ride To Remember – Using VR for Alzheimer’s

After working with Alzheimer’s Australia to help create digital platform Cultura I know how hideous Dementia is. I found this simple bit of tech made by Anne-Christine Hertz brilliant. In this video she shares her story of how she used Google Street View to invent a device that helps the elderly explore places they’ve been in the past.

Anything that helps alleviate suffering, leads to a better quality of life or simply brings joy to people living with Dementia is great. Not too dissimilar to how VR is being used to help heal soliders with PTSD, this project illustrates how technology can be used in such a powerful way.

BikeAround pairs a stationary bike with Google Street View to take dementia patients on a virtual ride down memory lane, letting them pedal around places they have visited in the past.

“Our strongest memories are tied inexorably to location. It’s no coincidence, when you think about any big memory or past event, your first thought is often “Where was I when that happened?”.”

BikeAround taps into this idea by combining mental and physical stimulation—surrounding the patient with places they recognize through the Street View images, and then having them pedal and steer through them. Scientists think this kind of pairing produces dopamine in the brain and has the potential to affect memory management in a profound way.

 

 

Google’s article, posted on World Alzheimers Day, mentions that patients find the BikeAround solution so fascinating—so comforting—they don’t want to get of. I can understand why; after visiting people with Dementia in care facilities I can only imagine the feeling of freedom, relief and escapism that they feel using BikeAround. Plus think of all those miles on Strava!

Using Google Earth you can go anywhere; explore the pyramids, trek the Inca Trail, dive the great barrier reef or take a tour of Abbey Road studios. The new Google Earth VR is simply incredible. But given all this power you have to ask yourself why the first place you go on Google Earth is to visit your own house!?. No matter how cool the tech is, it’s the emotional connection to the individuals world that decides whether a project lives or dies. This project gets this and bridges the gap of tech/humanity beautifully.

Anne Christine’s BikeAround invention is an inspiring example of what happens when you make technology available for everyone. The device is now undergoing further scientific study with the goal to bring it to facilities around the globe and improve the lives of dementia patients, one bike ride at a time.