Sweden's largest private pharmacy, Apotek Hjärtat, has launched a virtual reality app on the Oculus Rift store. The app, called "Happy Place", is designed to use an immersive virtual world to distract patients from pain.
"Apotek Hjärtat want to be at the forefront when it comes to offering products and services that can help people feel better," Annika Svedberg, head pharmacist at Apotek Hjärtat," said in a statement. "Combining pain relief and VR-technology in an app and making it available to the public feels very exciting. As far as I know we are the first pharmacy in the world to try this. We hope Happy Place can help those with temporary, acute pains."
The app is not designed to replace pharmaceutical painkillers, but to distract people from temporary pain such as "vaccinations, tattoos, menstrual or muscle aches", building on research that shows distraction can help with pain. As well as being available for purchase to anyone with a Samsung VR or Google Cardboard, the app will also be available in brick-and-mortar Apotek Hjärtat stores, where shoppers who come in for vaccinations can test it out.
In terms of the in-app experience, Happy Place simulates a campground with a range of immersive experiences, like weather changes, day changing to night, and shooting stars. Users can toggle features like guided relaxation and soothing music on and off to suit their tastes. Developer Mimerse partnered with Apotek Hjärtat to produce the app.
"The experience is designed to provide just the right amount of distraction for all users," Mimerse CEO William Hamilton said in a statement. "Happy Place puts you in a peaceful environment where there is a lot to see and explore, but the users are encouraged to take their time and enjoy the surroundings. With Happy Place we have worked on maximizing the comfort at the same time as eliminating the overwhelming and sometimes unpleasant feelings that VR apps often induce."
At Health 2.0 in Santa Clara, California last month, West Hollywood, California-based AppliedVR showed off similar VR programs for pain distraction. Rather than targeting the patient at home or at the pharmacy, however, AppliedVR is working with bedridden patients in hospitals, including a trial with Cedars Sinai. They are developing both immersive environments and distracting VR games, and are seeking to clinically validate their virtual interventions.