Bennett Werner: MieronVR

MieronVR

Includes UX, 3D Design, and Unity Development

Introduction

In 2017 I had was about to ship my first title for Google Daydream, when I was messaged about and idea for a VR library. A few days I met with Josh Dubon and Jessica Maslin and they told me Eden's story. Eden was a regular 5-6 year old girl doing gymnastics in her living room when she became paralyzed. Josh and Jessica had introduced VR to Eden during a live-in with her family. Eden's reaction to stimulating virtual content caused her to work harder during her regular exercises. With numerous scientific studies were supporting the evidence that VR could help with pain management. I knew as a VR developer how inhibitions disappear when a user becomes immersed, they let their guard down. VR has a magic power.

Initial Ideas

A library of experiences designed for Eden was the idea. The goal was to leverage existing VR game-mechanics with existing Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) therapy. Then deploy our library on a VR headset into SCI centers.

We selected Google Daydream as our platform for mobility and ease-of-use. Practitioners can easily watch the action using a Chromecast. The daydream controller while 3DoF, offered accelerometer, orientation, and gyro sensors suitable for interacting with user-movement.

UX challenges included designing a sanitary flow for application of VR Headset. I did not want the practitioner to enter VR, yet have complete control over the experiences. Using a 2D/VR design I solved for this issue. The practitioner uses the 2D menu to select experiences. The patient enters a greeting room scene with instructions for the upcoming exercise. When both are ready the experience begins with clear audio cues for practitioners without co-viewing.

UX Research I studied numerous SCI therapies and communicated directly with practitioners. I learned from practitioners that experiences need to target a specific range of motion and provide metrics. We also learned from our patient-users that controllers can be very difficult to use for mobility problems in the hand and upper body. To solve I designed for a larger range of accessibility integrating gaze based interactions and practitioner control.

Development

Development was done in Unity3D using the GoogleVR SDK. I made use of the IK-arm model for upper-body interactions, even adapting it to work with a leg exercise. Using the accel input I was able to create a fixed bike companion app, users can pedal on a real bike and see the results in VR.

Game-play was inspired by popular titles and adapted for accessibility and effectiveness of SCI recovery. Refining the difficulty and accessibility was critical a part of testing. Users swing swords, pop balloons, race bikes, and play with virtual dinosaurs while maximizing traditional SCI therapy.

360 Video I implemented a 360 video server to cache videos locally on the HMD using AWS S3. The gait training portion of Mieron uses 360 videos recorded at a set speed in tandem with gait training machines set at the same speed. Users are able to walk smoothly and comfortably in VR during gait training.

Final Concept

Today Mieron is used in treatment centers in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Mieron has changed the lives of patients and practitioners. Mieron has made users who claim they can't reach above their head reach high above their head. One patient needed video evidence, but was stunned to learn that indeed he could reach above his own head. The confidence boost an experience like Mieron can give to users is truly amazing. MieronVR.com MieronVR Instagram Stand for Eden