Since its opening in 2005, the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab at Ohio University has been striving to provide Appalachian Ohio with training and education in digital game technology. 

One of the focuses of the Lab is researching and developing virtual, augmented and mixed reality. Recently, the GRID Lab collaborated with OhioHealth in an effort to relieve the stress of COVID-19 on healthcare workers. The Lab created a tranquil VR experience, hoping to provide healthcare workers with a few minutes of peace during their busy days. 

The Post sat down with Matthew Love, a cineVR and film cinematographer, post production manager and media lecturer at OU, to talk about the collaboration. 

The Post: Tell me about the GRID Lab’s project with Ohio Health.

Love: The way that it came to be is I was on a group call for a grant project last fall with Dr. Elizabeth Beverly from the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, along with several folks from OhioHealth. We were discussing the potential to submit a new grant application. The folks from OhioHealth let us know that they were going to have to postpone the work on the grant because of the fact that so many individuals who typically had desk jobs were being called to the floor to care for patients, just because of the fact that the health care system was under such stress. 

It was at that point it turned to more general conversation. Liz and I had been in discussions prior to that on our own about our desire to leverage virtual reality to help in some way shape or form in response to the pandemic. And we had some ideas that were kind of an amalgamation of different things that we have done here. In addition to things that we had either read or heard about from other work being done with virtual reality across the country.  

We presented the idea to them kind of on a whim to provide headsets in OhioHealth facilities that would have peaceful, tranquil content on it. That could perhaps provide staff, doctors, nurses, receptionists, security guards, custodians, whoever, who are stressed or stressed out by the situation, a chance to escape and take their two, three, five minutes of their day and just be transported somewhere else. OhioHealth loved the idea and said that they saw that as something that had potential, and that they would be very interested in implementing or testing a few of their facilities.

TP: What was the process like for developing the tranquil experience?

Love: I contacted Professor Nancy Stevens. She had been partnering with the GRID Lab, along with a local nature preserve, to document the preserve in its different seasons with very high end VR content. We were going to various locations throughout the reserve to capture the different seasons. I contacted Nancy and said, ‘What do you think about perhaps using some of the content you've gotten from the nature preserve to help facilitate this pilot program with OhioHealth?’ and she loved the idea. We were able to leverage some of that content from the Nature Preserve. We put that in headsets and made that available at three different OhioHealth facilities that were identified by OhioHealth as COVID hotspots. We had headsets at Riverside in Columbus, along with Grant Medical in Columbus and Marion General in Marion. Those headsets were made available for any hospital worker from doctors on down to just get a little bit of a break.

TP: What was the feedback like from the three hospitals?

Love: Liz worked with OhioHealth in the development of a simple measurement tool so that we can, without adding any more stress to (the healthcare workers’) lives, get an idea of whether or not this was effective. Essentially we did a 10-point scale, where users self-reported how stressed they felt prior to putting the headset on, to how stressed they felt when they took the headset off. One question going in, one question coming out. We have gotten that data back, and it was very promising. It was very encouraging. We are now in talks with OhioHealth to expand the project. So we want to get a greater variety of experiences on the headsets, and we want to get the headsets at many more facilities across their network.

Going forward, the GRID Lab is hoping to develop a variety of tranquil experiences for users to choose from. For example, a tropical beach or dense forest. Additionally, the lab’s next step is deciding how many headsets should be at each facility and  where the funding will come from.

I will add that John Bowditch, who is the director of the GRID Lab, has always been incredibly supportive of ideas and projects with the GRID Lab. In spite of (the OhioHealth project) not being something that was funded or that was going to bring monetary value to the GRID Lab, John is the kind of director who will look at it and say, ‘Is this a way for us to have a positive impact on our community?’ I really appreciate that about the GRID Lab -- that we leverage what we have in terms of our capability and our resources to try to be a positive influence on the student body and the greater community that we are a part of in Southeast Ohio.

@colant_juliana 

jc079419@ohio.edu