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Using AI to create more meaningful VR experiences for Palliative Care

Role: Researcher

Duration: 12 months

The problem

"How might we create more meaningful VR experiences for adult PC persons?"


During my final year of my masters of interaction design program, I was selected to be part of the competitive 1 year long thesis program (requiring a high distinction average). As part of this program, I wanted to stretch my research and technical skills as as a designer in the health field. Under the supervision of my masters supervisor I conducted year long research alongside my full time job at WooliesX. My thesis looked at how we can improve the way we design VR experiences for Palliative care persons to improve pain and symptom management, as well as provide enrichment. The final outcomes of my work include:

  • Acceptance of my research paper into an international conference. My paper was awarded best paper at the conference and is now published. 

  • Awarded 95% as final mark for my thesis 

  • Continuing to work with academic lab to publish rest of thesis and develop hi-fidelity VR experience to launch to real palliative care persons for pilot trials 

Research aim

Why VR? Why Palliative Care?

  • There has been an increased interest in using VR for Palliative Care as it is a non-pharmological treatment (no side-effects like drugs) and the ability of VR as a tool to create fully immersive experiences that capture the attentional resources of patients to reduce the sensation of pain and generate positive emotional experiences

  • However, most studies are clinically robust, and have missed opportunity to fully harness VR as a tool for enrichment. There is also a missed opportunity to co-design meaningful experiences with healthcare clinicians and PC persons

  • VR has already shown promise in both adolescent and adult palliative care patients for reducing pain symptoms

  • However, the field tends to focus on  intervention/curative perspectives, prioritises investigation into use for physical symptom management and distraction rather than other meaningful use-cases to support holistic model of care

  • Current state of research focused on examining feasibility of VR. Opportunity to look at design trends in HCI to support meaningful and ethical innovation

Goals for research

  • RQ1: What aspects of PC do the papers address through the application of VR? What themes can we identify across these?

  • RQ2: What design considerations are typically used to support PC aspects through VR?

  • RQ3: What are the opportunities to further support PC through VR?

What's currently being done in the field?

Scoping review

Here is a video highlighting a summary of the scoping review process. This process resulted in:

  • Identifying key themes around how VR is currently being used in the Palliative Care field

  • Design principles for more meaningful design

  • A set of provocations to consider to enable more meaningful collaboration with Palliative Care persons and their families 

VR prototyping

Using AI to improve VR prototyping

Final video protoype and next steps

This video showcases the final VR video protoype after rounds of iteration and feedback from stakeholders. Currently I am in the process of developing the final prototype in collaboration with the lab. I've included examples of how my work is evolving from flat 2D experience in the video prototype into 3D experiences in tools such as blender. I've also included examples of how I'm using AI generative tools such as Blockade Labs to generate 3D environments based on 2D landscape scenes seen in the video prototype. 


  • There was an opportunity to explore how we can use generative AI tools to speed up the VR video prototyping process to present a more visual artefact that can effectively be shared with stakeholders. This artefact also allows more in-depth feedback compared to 2D tools such as storyboards, sketches that is required to communicate the immersive features of a VR environment. Throughout my research I conducted many experiments across a range of AI tools to find the best workflow

  • The slides below document a summary of my process

  • I have attached a copy of my thesis for greater in-depth detail

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