Effective communication is very important to people. Humans are social animals and we need to be able to communicate our needs and problems. However, some people are facing acquired communication disorders that are significantly hindering their lives.
Now researchers from the University of Queensland say that Virtual Reality (VR) technology could aid therapy helping people with communication disorders.
Communication disorders can be brought into this life (inherited, for example), but they can also be acquired due to some traumatic events and diseases. There are therapies that help people deal with communication disorders to help them tackle barriers in everyday activities, such as job hunting, maintaining an active social life and relationships. These therapies have been traditionally delivered in places such as hospitals and health centres and those are great. However, it is almost impossible to simulate real life interactions in these healthcare settings. And that’s where VR comes in.
People with communication disorders might be struggling in real life social situations, because they get nervous or feel unsafe. It is good to put yourself into situations like that to overcome them, but speech therapists cannot always provide such opportunities. VR can put people with communication disorders into a variety of settings. Researchers put these patients into a kitchen setting, mimicking complexity of an everyday situation. Then scientists interviewed and surveyed speech pathologists following their use of an immersive VR kitchen environment.
Participants of this study were feeling encouraged by the effectiveness and usefulness of VR technology in such applications. Dr Atiyeh Vaezipour, author of this study, said: “Speech pathologists considered VR to be a viable option for observation of communication performance in more life-like environments, bridging the gap between communication in the clinic and communication in external environments where distractions are present, such as background noise or visual complexity.” In essence, VR can simulate an environment where people can practice and hone their communication skills.
Scientists say that more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of the VR approach to therapies for communication disorders. This technology can be further improved to make sure it suits a big variety of people with different severity of the condition. However, so far scientists feel encouraged and can proceed with the development of VR tools for use in clinical practice.
Source: University of Queensland