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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Canberra filmmaker creates VR healing program

As a teenager, Canberra filmmaker Christian Doran kept his cinematography ambitions quiet from some adults in his life, instead telling them he wanted to be a chiropractor.

“I knew they were worried about job security (in filmmaking),” he said. “And I was always fascinated by the human body and brain.”

Despite its challenges, Christian pursued his dream and spent 15 successful years in the industry before he felt the “need for change”.

There was some tinkering with 360-degree video and fitness apps before Christian realised that fitness apps alone “weren’t going to get him out of bed in the morning”, but perhaps his interest in the human body would.

Christian found a dataset about strokes; learnt of a three-month waitlist for post-stroke therapy in remote and rural communities and became inspired to help, tapping into his filmmaking skillset to create virtual reality (VR) programs to aid post-stroke recovery.

“That three-month waiting period is when your body most needs to keep moving,” he said. “And VR can help anyone keep moving,”

Christian spent 18 months travelling Australia consulting with physios and filming iconic landscapes before creating an immersive, relaxed, and fun VR program using medical techniques.

“You have to make it fun to keep people coming back,” he said.

“People in recovery from strokes have to do monotonous behaviours for hours. It means a lot of people give up.”

With a wireless headset and controller and one of Christian’s library of more than 50 games, a patient can improve their physical and mental outcomes.

“It’s entertainment and it helps people in a much more fundamental way,” he said.

“It’s a simulation of a safe environment which can allow people to garden, cook or paint.

“They practise reaching, grabbing, gripping and report more bending and standing than they thought possible.

“It helps people forget their own limitations.”

Christian said soon his company will tackle complex pain management for the 3.7 million Australians in chronic pain.

“I had no idea about complex pain before we began.” 

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