Dr Chris Blackmore collaborates with Humanstudios to create LifePath

LifePathVR is a therapeutic tool which will enable users to construct a version of their life-story in virtual reality.

Dr Blackmore has worked closely with creative partners Humanstudio, as part of this year’s Festival Of The Mind. LifePathVR is a therapeutic tool which will enable users to construct a version of their life-story in virtual reality. It is based on the metaphor of life as a winding path, with twists and turns, milestones and turning points. The idea is that users can create, and then reflect upon, their life stories, and the use of immersive technologies to do this should make it a really engaging experience.

We spoke to Dr Chris Blackmore to find out more about this project.

How important is it for us to share stories with our loved ones and people we've never met?

“Sharing stories is a universal human impulse, and it is one of the ways in which we bond with others and make sense of what has happened in our lives. It's also an important component of many treatments for mental health and well-being. Whether it's in therapy or not, a lot is going on when we construct and then recount a story to another person, and one of the most important processes is that internal one of reflecting on events and making meaning. Having said that, telling stories does not necessarily make problems go away, and especially where there is trauma, injustice or inequality, sharing stories may need to be accompanied by other actions to move towards a better place.”

Virtual Reality offers great opportunities within healthcare, what can it offer from a mental health perspective?

“There is a lot of interest in VR for mental health because it allows a person to experience a scenario in a controlled and replicable way. So there are some great applications in areas such as phobias and social anxiety where a person can be helped to practice being exposed to stressful situations. The approach in LifePathVR is a bit different in that we are creating an environment that is very flexible and can be customised to reflect the user's individual experience. This should result in something that users feel is authentic, something that really captures their personal experiences and evokes a deep response.”

You worked with local creative partners Humanstudio, they've got a wealth of experience in VR, are there plans to develop this collaboration further?

“They are fantastic partners to work with as they are very committed to the area of mental health, and are very imaginative and creative, with cutting edge VR design skills. So they've really contributed a lot to the development so far. The partnership, which includes Dr Steve Maddock and Prof Brendan Stone, is at the stage of applying for funding to develop a pilot version, and we are doing so in conjunction with people with lived experience of mental health issues who will help us to co-design the tool. It's really important that end users are involved in helping us right from the start, as ultimately LifePathVR will only be effective if it's safe, accessible and beneficial.”

Read more about the projectFor more information about Dr Chris Blackmore’s work in the School of Health and Related Research, visit his staff page or follow him on Twitter @chrisblackmore