Speaker Q&A: Christina Heller discusses the potential of VR as a healthcare tool

Christina Heller is CEO/Co-Founder of VR Playhouse and will be at VRDC Fall 2017 to present the talk Digital Medicine: Creating Great VR Healtchare Content”.

The talk will discuss how leveraging the medium of VR can provide a unique opportunity for patients who experience physical pain and mental tumult of illnesses. Here, Heller gives us some information about herself and her work.

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Tell us about yourself and your work in VR/AR

I’ve run VR Playhouse with my partner Ian Forester and our amazing team for the past three years. During this time we’ve produced over 50 VR experiences that span almost every vertical. It’s been hard work, and we’ve had a lot of proud moments: We were the first team to work with lightfield technology. We worked with Ken Burns to make the first piece of VR content for TIM. We made a Verizon commercial for the Macy’s Day Parade from start to finish in less than 30 hours. We got to make animated characters for a PSVR AAA videogame. And then of course, winning a SXSW award for best VR in the field of healthcare this past year. It’s been a crazy few years! But over time we’ve developed a lot of creative and technical expertise along with a very deep understanding of the industry.

Without spoiling it too much, tell us what you’ll be talking about at VRDC

I’m focusing in on VR content as it pertains to healthcare. I am passionate about VR that has real world impact, and makes life better for people. I believe that when you match the potential of VR as a healthcare tool with great content that executes on the big vision, then you’ve done something miraculous. You’ve created digital medicine that doesn’t require a pill.

What excites you most about VR/AR?

What excites me about VR is also what scares me. Studies have shown that it affects neural pathways in the same way as real life experiences, creating memories. Having done a lot of VR experiences myself, I can attest to that being true. Therefore it’s incredibly exciting to be pioneering such a powerful technology, but I also worry about the negative side effects if not used responsibly.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to realizing VR/AR’s potential?

The headsets have to become smaller and lighter and cheaper. Once that happens, it’s game on.

How is VR currently being used to manage pain in patients?

It is in very preliminary stages right now. Studies have shown that putting a patient in a VR experience can reduce symptoms by up to 40%, similar to that of a pain reliever.

What is considered a creative element in VR, and how does it enhance practical applications?

Content affects our emotions and our experience in VR. Seeing a bird is going to affect you differently than seeing a truck. Certain scenarios will motivate specific actions. My goal is to bring together medical specialists with passionate VR creatives in order to make content that is so good, you may even have a fond memory about being in the hospital. I’d like to see this happen no matter what, and if VR Playhouse can be a part of making that happen, then I’m happy.

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