TechnologyVirtual reality to understand the drama of the covid in the first...

Virtual reality to understand the drama of the covid in the first person


A person sick with covid begins to have breathing difficulties. She can barely do it herself. The health workers come to her home and an ambulance rushes her to a hospital. Given the seriousness of his condition, doctors decide to take the patient to an ICU and then connect him to a ventilator. The scene, unfortunately prevalent for a year and a half throughout the world, is not at all pleasant. Not even to live it as a virtual reality experience. But that is precisely the goal of Breathe, a pioneering project presented yesterday by the Government of the Canary Islands: to show how the drama of a covid income is suffered in the first person to make the population aware of the need to extend vaccination and keep their guard up until the pandemic is defeated .

“Society does not know what happens inside a hospital when a patient is admitted with covid,” says the director of the Canary Islands Health Service, Conrado Domínguez. The project Breathe allows you to approach this reality in all its harshness: experience from virtual reality glasses (or from the computer or mobile device, although the immersive effect will be less) for seven minutes what happens to a person who comes to a hospital to fight for his life.

Photogram of the ‘Breathe Project’, of the Government of the Canary Islands

The initiative seeks to “help raise awareness about the disease and its risks” and “generate a change in behavior” in two main aspects. On the one hand, that citizens increase their own protection and towards others to prevent infections (such as the correct use of the mask, frequent hand hygiene, safety distance, ventilation of rooms or compliance with protocol) . On the other, it tries to promote vaccination among people who are reluctant to inoculate. “The perception of the level of danger of the disease by each person is an important variable in deciding whether to get vaccinated or not,” says the Ministry in its press release. “If the experience manages to increase the perception of danger in people, it will also increase the probability that they decide to get vaccinated.”

The project will also allow, according to their managers at a press conference, to carry out an impact study on the perception of risk about the disease. When entering the service, the program takes the user along two different paths: in some cases the viewing is offered directly and at the end a question is asked about the level of perceived risk of contagion; in others, the order is reversed, so you can learn more about the impact of the video.

The director of Psychology and Communication of the emerging company (startup) author of the project, Vera Emerging Realities, Antonio Bernal, has assured EL PAÍS that this is a “pioneering” initiative worldwide in the fight against covid, although it has been based on previous projects of the company, carried out carried out in the field of the fight against gender violence or workplace harassment. From a medical point of view, the experience has been advised by the Doctor Negrín University Hospital of Gran Canaria, who have accurately described and based on their professional experience during the pandemic the process through which a covid-19 patient goes through, and has been validated by pulmonologists.

The recording of the images was carried out in the facilities of said hospital with 360-degree cameras and stereoscopic 3D technology, with which a greater illusion of depth is achieved, presenting a slightly different image for each eye. The experience is available to be reproduced from the project website both on a mobile phone, a tablet or a computer, although Bernal emphasizes that the ideal is to use it with a virtual reality viewer. The Government of the Canary Islands has installed viewing points in the Elder Museum of Science and Technology in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and plans to take it to other places in the archipelago soon. It so happens that the exteriors of this museum have served as a site to carry out massive tests during the pandemic.

Advancement of virtual reality

Virtual reality is receiving more and more attention thanks to the commitment of big names in technology. Especially after the founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg explained this summer on the podcast of the American publication The Verge his intention to become strong in the call metaverse, a universe created in cyberspace that is accessed with virtual reality devices and in which, ideally, it should be possible to travel through different experiences in a shared way with other millions of users: work meetings, virtual offices, concerts, games , shops or public squares where you can meet your friends. “Imagine putting on a virtual reality headset in which screens are generated and in which you do not see the real world, but another generated by a computer,” César Córcoles, professor of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications at the University, recently explained in a telephone conversation. Open de Catalunya (UOC).

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