VR is the hip new thing. It’s great for games, and remote work, and checking in on your grandparents. Rendever is using virtual reality to redefine elder care by helping assisted living residents experience new things, connect with others, and now even stay active.
Rendever does a lot to help keep things light, but it’s a serious business. It’s not all fun and games. That’s why the company is expanding research into the cognitive and emotional health benefits that virtual reality actually brings to these populations. To learn more, we reconnected with CEO Kyle Rand.
Catching Up With Rendever
Rendever uses virtual reality in partnering senior care facilities to help residents virtually experience bucket-list items, take computer-assisted strolls down memory lane, and connect with remote friends and family. The last major update to the platform was in October when the company announced EnvisionHome to help families tour facilities remotely during COVID.
The company hasn’t been dormant, since then, of course.
In one of the company’s biggest outreach moves to date, CTO and co-founder Tom Neumann created MultiBrush in January. MultiBrush is a multiplayer version of Tilt Brush that Neumann created after Google open-sourced the original software. The app even became available on SideQuest about a month later and is now also available through the Oculus App Lab.
That’s not just cool, it comes into the story again later.
Funding for Much Needed Research
Rendever is also involved in research. The company first came to ARPost’s attention as an MIT startup, largely for their research into the benefits of VR for aging populations. The company’s research hasn’t stopped since and recently passed a major funding milestone.
A multi-site clinical trial already underway in conjunction with UC Santa Barbara has received a $2M Phase II grant from the National Institute of Aging, part of the National Institute of Health. According to a release shared with ARPost, “Initial pilot data confirms the positive impact that virtual family engagement has on both residents, and their families living at a distance.”
When we think of emotional health in residential care, we think first of the residents themselves – as well we should. However, their family members often experience “caregivers guilt” when circumstances require them to live away from their aging loved ones. Solutions like those provided by Rendever help both parties feel more connected.
“We focused on those with some level of cognitive decline,” Rand told ARPost. “That’s where caregiver guilt is high and that’s where the need for social engagement is high.”
Rand’s study is unique but it does not exist in a complete vacuum. Studies done to the degree that this study is being conducted typically focus on the alleviation of physical pain rather than the effect of VR on emotional health.
“This is an important step in thinking about VR as something that can not just decrease pain… but increase quality of life,” said Rand. To reflect this philosophy, Rendever has hired Dr. Jennifer Stamps as their new Director of Research.
While Rendever’s research won’t be ready for release until next year, another recent announcement does have immediate benefits. The company is getting in on the VR fitness trend with the new RendeverFit package.
“The ideas of exercise and fitness in senior living are a little dated,” said Rand. “Fun needs to be involved. What RendeverFit is designed to do is attract people because it’s fun.”
This package consists of three modules, Cycle, Paddle, and Paint. One unique element of the package is that all of the modules heavily incorporate lower-body movement.
Cycle is a biking activity, in which players bike through a virtual environment while popping balloon targets that float toward them. Paddle is a VR version of table tennis, and Paint is a modified version of the MultiBrush app described above in which users have to move in order to paint 3D artworks working with other artists. Paddle and Cycle even have global leaderboards.
“There’s a lot of research that shows that combining cognitive elements with physical elements and social elements increases the benefits for everyone,” said Rand. “Everything that we’re doing is feeding into this idea of building this community.”
Good for All
We need more research on VR. We need more research on emotional health. And, sure, we need more multi-user VR art apps. Some of Rendever’s services and solutions only impact their partners and their customers. However, with projects like MultiBrush and increasing dedication to research, the general public is seeing a lot more from this promising group as well.