A familiar voice will soon help patients at St Giles Hospice in Lichfield manage their pain.
Sir David Attenborough has provided a voiceover for the Whittington-based hospice as they develop a virtual reality meditation app.
Medical director Sheila Popert, who is leading the project, said she was delighter to get Sir David’s support.
“When we started work on creating an app I knew the voice of the narrator would be the key to its success and the first person I thought of was Sir David,” she said. “I was amazed and delighted when he agreed and within weeks he had recorded the narration for us and it surpasses expectation.
“We are now working on the visuals to accompany the narration and look forward to launching the app across the Oculus and Steam platforms in the autumn.”
Work on the app started after the hospice used virtual reality as part of its pain management programme and saw the relief from pain it provided for patients.
“Pain is one of the most feared symptoms for people living with a palliative condition and the treatment is usually drug related,” Sheila added. “But the drugs are not always effective and often have side effects which can stop patients making the most of the time they have.
“One of the elements of the pain management programme that participants found particularly beneficial was mindfulness but because some patients have so many distressing thoughts whirring about in their head they can find it difficult to relax enough to enter a meditative state.
“We decided to test whether using virtual reality might enable patients to relax and enter a meditative state more easily. The results were amazing, it is wonderful to observe patients body language as they become immersed in a virtual world where they can forget their pain.
“One patient with intractable pain from mesothelioma was asked about his pain following a VR session said ‘What pain? For the first time in six months I completely forgot that I had any pain’.”
Birmingham virtual reality developers Holosphere are helping to create the app which will be available from the Oculus Rift and XX platforms.
Holosphere director Sean Duffy said the project showed the massive potential of virtual reality for applications beyond gaming.
“It’s great to be part of the development of an app which will hopefully bring pain relief to so many people and demonstrates the use of VR in a health setting,” he said. “There is so much potential in this area from helping to manage pain to tackling phobias and reminiscence therapy for people with dementia and we are delighted to be part of the first wave of development.”