Tech giant Samsung has teamed up with virtual reality (VR) studio, Start VR, to use VR technology to alleviate stress for oncology patients undergoing chemotherapy.

The initiative is part of a partnership with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, a cancer centre in Australia.

Instead of focusing on being in a hospital receiving chemotherapy treatment, patients can instead skydrive, pet koalas in a zoo, or take a boat ride through the Sydney Harbour using Samsung VR headsets.

The new project demonstrates the potential of using VR as a tool to ease psychological stress and provide a form of “distraction therapy” for patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Start VR’s head of content Martin Taylor led the project as a way to see if VR had the potential to change people’s outlook in their current environment.

“Our main goal is to create compelling virtual reality content and initiatives that make a positive impact on the lives of consumers,” said Taylor.

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“Exploring the application of VR in healthcare, highlights an exciting pathway for this burgeoning medium and we are proud to leverage what we are learning to continually push boundaries in VR content creation.”

Patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment often feel anxious, with the stress of the treatments affecting their mental wellbeing. The team at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse hope the VR treatment will provide a distraction to help them feel more at ease.

Complementary therapy director at the cancer centre, Michael Marthick, said:

“Allowing patients to escape the experience of chemotherapy gives them a bit of space to forget what’s going on. In settings such as before surgery, patients are even more anxious. This gives them a distraction and allows them to keep their spirits up.”

Health treatments using virtual reality don’t end with oncology treatment. It has also been heralded as a treatment for mental health, including anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dr Albert “Skip” Rizzo, director of medical virtual reality at the Institute for Creative Technology, at the University of South Carolina, has created an application called Bravemind, developed in partnership with Virtually Better, a clinic which specialises in using cognitive behavioral techniques, such as VR.

There is currently an ongoing clinical trial investigating the use of Bravemind VR therapy in military sexual trauma, whilst other studies have found that VR therapy has many benefits over traditional drug therapy.