• Jie Li

A Social VR Clinic for Knee Arthritis Patients with Haptics

Funded by the European Commission Horizon 2020 VRTogether, Tong Xue, Guo Chen and I developed a social virtual reality (VR) clinic for patients to remotely access healthcare services. The results published as a late-breaking work at ACM CHI 2020 and a scientific demo at ACM IMX 2020.

The motivation behind this project is to support patients with limited physical mobility to travel fewer times to the hospital but still communicate well with doctors and nurses. Patients with knee arthritis the target group of this work. The final goal is to build a Social VR clinic that simulates the real consultation room and facilities in the hospital, in which, patients can interact with the doctors or nurses with visualized information, such as surgery preparation procedures, 3D anatomy models, and a tour in the surgery room.

The project started with a series of ethnographic studies at the Reinier de Graaf hospital in Delft, which led to a better understanding of the complete patient journey (Figure 1), and to the identification of the requirements for the design and prototyping of a Social VR solution. It supports the four main identified activities within the patent journey (Figure 2): (1) visualization of the intervention process, (2) “walking into” a 3D virtual surgery room to “meet” the medical staff and to get familiar with the equipment, (3) interacting with an animated virtual 3D knee anatomical model and a virtual knee prosthesis model to see what the differences are before and after the surgery, and (4) learning to use an injection tool. The first prototype of the social VR clinic included the first three activities (Figure 3).

Figure 1: A typical treatment journey for knee arthritis patients.

Figure 2: The four main activities related to a medical consultation: comparing the differences in the face-to-face (F2F) consultation with the social VR consultation.

Figure 3: The first social VR clinic prototype: (a) visualized surgery preparation timeline; (b) 3D "walk-in" surgery room; (c) 3D interactive knee anatomical and prosthesis models

Based on the first prototype, we extended the experience to include a virtual injection tool to train patients to practice injecting medicine to their knees. By wearing a pair of mechanical VR gloves (SenseGlove), patients are able to use the virtual injection tool with realistic haptic feedback. The video below shows the second prototype with the virtual injection tool. This project and the two prototypes show the potential of social VR as a new tool to help patients receive remote personalized medical care.