Campus News

Transporting Children With Cancer to a New World Using Virtual Reality

Photo of VR game rendering
Photo of VR game rendering

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 5, 2017)  It's difficult to imagine how a child with cancer could escape the reality of the disease and their surroundings, but Nathan Stevens, a college media officer at the University of Kentucky, is trying to do just that through virtual reality.

"The game will be simple, but engaging, transporting children from the hospital to another world," Stevens said.

He's calling it "Arcadian Dream" and hopes it offers a distraction from cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, which are especially stressful for pediatric patients. After putting on the headset, the game will allow children to explore, play games and communicate with others while in their "virtual world."  

Stevens, who is the media officer in the UK College of Communication and Information, has worked extensively with virtual reality in the college's Co-Lab, a technology usability lab where students and faculty work together to test emerging technologies. He's also an expert on video games, teaching a course that gives an overview of the industry and its technological advances.

After reading research that pointed to virtual reality as a stress-reliever and anxiety-reducer for patients with cancer, Stevens had the idea to create a virtual reality game for local children undergoing cancer treatment.

"We're just wanting to take their minds off the disease and treatment for a few minutes," he said.

Stevens and his team of UK students are in the initial phases of developing the game — designing the environment and building the software. The group is currently raising funds for the project, which will support programmers and equipment costs.

"This is a completely nonprofit venture and we plan to offer the VR gaming experience free of charge to local hospitals and elsewhere once we're finished," Stevens said.

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