News Category: Technology
Article Written by Kush, a News Team ContributorWho are you working with and how did you meet them?Two other undergraduate students and I were brought together by a neuroscience research program at Stanford and we were united by a common passion to do something about the issue of depression.What inspired you to come up with this idea, specifically regarding the topic of mental health?Growing up in the Bay Area and attending a college like UCLA, I have often been surrounded by high stress environments. Mental health, specifically things like depression and anxiety, are topics you hear about a lot. However, people don’t understand how important and prevalent these issues are until it affects them or a loved one personally. Mental health is also a deeply stigmatized topic, so we aim to raise awareness about these issues and educate the population. We thought that the medium of virtual reality would be the best way to provide a fully immersive experience, and would go a long way towards helping people understand what it’s like to live with depression.What does your VR experience hope to achieve?Firstly, we aim to educate people about depression and its symptoms. You hear this word thrown around a lot, often in a very casual context, and that can be really harmful because it undermines the gravity of a serious condition. For loved ones and healthcare providers who are treating depression, it can be difficult for them to put themselves in the shoes of the patient and truly understand what they are going through. This impedes their ability to truly empathize with the patient and provide the highest quality of care. Through our game, we hope to raise awareness of depression and foster empathy within individuals, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of patient care. Additionally, we hope to help destigmatize depression; the more we normalize talking about depression, the better our society will be because people will be more able to ask for help and recognize when there is a problem.What is the actual game about – what are the objectives of the game and what does the player hope to achieve throughout playing it?The game is called Amina – it is a virtual reality first-person choice-based gaming experience to help people understand how it’s like to live with the“lens of depression”. The player plays as Amina, the main character, and lives through her life, which is a series of 7 chapters to model 7 days. You do seemingly mundane activities, like going for a run, getting groceries, or going to class and you are shown how the symptoms of depression affect your ability to go through your normal day to day activities. At the end of each chapter there is a quiz to help quantitatively measure how your knowledge of depression and empathy levels have increased throughout the game.Did you have any help or guidance in the development of this game?We wanted to keep this game as authentic as possible by learning from people who have had depression and drawing from their experiences directly. We did not want to assume anything as everyone’s experience of depression is so vastly different. We have also been consulting with some psychiatrists at Stanford who have really guided us throughout this process. Under their guidance, through case studies, and patient observations we have been able to accurately develop this experience and give it its authenticity.What is the future of this game?Since the inception of this idea, we have presented at several medical conferences and received a lot of valuable advice from prominent members of the medical community on where to take our game and how to build upon it. Our next step is to continue taking that advice into consideration, building our game, and hopefully finding other places to present and share this idea so we can really make this a collaborative effort. In terms of development, our next step is to create the virtual reality aspect of this game as our story has been written.
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