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VR delivers memorable experience for MS patients

By Joss Davidge

Virtual reality offers the opportunity for people to enjoy an infinite number of previously impossible experiences.

Whether it’s stepping into the heart of a Dali masterpiece, swimming with sharks, or visiting the South Pole, there are quite simply no limits to the potential of this rapidly-growing technology.

But there’s also another benefit that VR offers: for people living with debilitating diseases, the technology can have a very powerful impact. It provides the opportunity to enjoy experiences that may otherwise be off limits due to illness.

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A new campaign from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society has inventively used VR to give two people with MS the opportunity to experience their lifelong passions once again.

After decades of surfing, Steve Bettis was diagnosed with progressive MS in 2006, and hasn’t been able to get out on the water since then. Also affected was dancer and choreographer Amy Meisner, first diagnosed with the disease in 1997 which impacted her ability to continue to perform in the same way. 

With the use of a 360-degree camera, the National MS Society teamed up with professional surfer Robert “Wingnut” Weaver and dancer LaTonya Swann to create virtual reality films which simulated the experiences of both hitting the waves and dancing onstage.

Putting on a VR headset, Steve was able to ride a wave for the first time in a decade, surfing alongside Weaver as he skimmed across the ocean and giving him a view he hasn’t experienced for years:

Amy’s experience was equally magical as she joined three dancers on stage, hearing and seeing everything that LaTonya experienced through a dance routine. For Amy, the experience was so realistic that she couldn’t help but join in with the routine:

While reliving the experience through a headset may not match the real thing, the joy on Steve and Amy’s faces showed it to be a moving and memorable experience for both.

The videos form part of the US charity’s wider ‘Together We Are Stronger’ campaign which aims to raise awareness of MS and also encourage people to share their inspirational stories of overcoming the challenges of living with the disease. The campaign is also being supported by a social media campaign with the hashtag #WeAreStrongerThanMS.

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