VERVE - Virtual Worlds in the Therapy of Neurological Disorders

How virtual worlds can improve the quality of life for patients with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease or people with anxiety disorders is the focus of Project VERVE (Personalized Virtual Reality Scenarios for Groups at Risk of Social Exclusion), under development by an interdisciplinary team of European researchers.

DFKI developed, in collaboration with neuroscientists at Trinity College in Dublin, a specific training environment that uses virtual 3-D scenes to help these patient groups to once again move about safely in real environments. The project team works closely not only with these patient groups, but also with the caregivers, families, therapists, and relevant funding organizations.

Neurological diseases like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, diverse fears of everyday situations, or afflictions of old age combined with motoric impairments often lead to the withdrawal of the victims from their social surroundings.

The virtual 3D environment deliberately confronts these patients with situations that trigger the anxiety or "freezing" states (blocked movement) and gradually trains the strategies to help counteract them. In this way, patients learn to better manage the attacks, to reduce the frequencies, and to once again move about safely in public. The VERVE consortium models customized and populated virtual reality (VR) environments, 3D web graphics, and Serious Games by applying state-of-the-art research techniques.

For example, the use of XML3D technology means that the patient training session can be completed at home – not only in conjunction with a stationary hospital stay. The 3D Internet technology is developed at DFKI in joint research with the Intel Visual Computing Institute at Saarland University. A game was created on the basis of XML3D for patients to balance on a "Wii Balance Board" and "walk" through a virtual labyrinth that contains many different elements to provoke the freezing reactions. The playful nature of the exercises is designed to encourage the patients to continue the training beyond the prescribed schedule. The use of XML3D facilitates supervision by the attending physician and customization of the difficulty level of the training courses.

VERVE is funded under the EU 7th Framework Program for Research.

XML3D – Technology for the 3D Internet
XML3D enables the creation of three-dimensional web sites and permits viewing on nearly every web browser on almost all PC‘s and mobile phones. As a minimal and seamless extension of the previous HTML standard, the technology need not be learned from scratch. It is a natural progression to use it in games and product presentations. However, there are many other new and interesting application areas: interactive visualization of data sets, collaborative enterprise resource planning and supervision in the context of INDUSTRIE 4.0, training scenarios for emergency response teams, and construction site logistics are just a few of the many topics being studied at DFKI in the context of various industrial and research projects.
The technology is also attractive to the health care sector because the introduction and use of XML3D is so cost effective. Using the technical know-how from DFKI, Saarland University Hospital Homburg/Saar has already developed a three-dimensional patient training aid for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in XML3D.

More information:

Kristian Sons
Research department Agents and Simulated Reality
Phone: +49 681 85775 3833

Stand Coordinates at CeBIT 2014
CeBIT 2014, Hall 9, Stand F43

Press Contact at CeBIT 2014
Heike Leonhard, DFKI
Phone: +49 174 3076888