Serenity VR (2016)

Serenity is a low-cost and patient-guided mobile virtual reality intervention for cancer coping.

Medical procedures often induce physical pain and psychological distress. Cancer patients are particularly vulnerable to fatigue, heightened emotional distress, social isolation, and increased risk of depression, severely reducing quality of life and potential treatment non-adherence and prolonged hospital stays.

Leveraging emerging virtual reality (VR) technology, we prototyped Serenity: a mobile smartphone-based VR cancer coping intervention informed by distraction therapy to help alleviate the symptoms of coping and promote patient empowerment. It leverages emerging low-cost VR to improve accessibility and effectiveness of distraction therapy. We describe the results of a preliminary usability study and lessons learned that apply to future design and evaluation of virtual reality interventions for behavioral health.

Presented at the IEEE International Conference on Healthcare Informatics and Rehab Week 2019.

Read the paper here


Serenity places you in a virtual beachside scene with dynamic time-of-day cycle to enhance immersion in the environment.


Top left: I enhanced the Google Cardboard V2 viewer design with facial foam padding. Bottom left: An opening in the front part of the viewer exposed the smartphone main cameras to add fiducial based hand controller tracking to the Google Cardboard system. Left: I designed a custom fiducial marker controller with an artistic image pattern as the fiducial allowing for three translational degrees of freedom (DOF) plus roll. Certain pocketable stereoscopic viewers can be attached to a hat to personalize and familiarize system presentation and usability to those unfamiliar with head mounted displays.


Using the controller, the player moves the yellow "cursor" object (top left) to interact with environmental objects (knocking over trees and triggering and exploring different combinations of musical tones by touching the various plants and flowers).


To explore giving greater agency to persons with limited mobility such as those coping with chronic illness, left-right view rotation can be controlled by pointing with the hand controller cursor onto turn arrows as a complement to traditional 3DOF head rotation. We are experimenting with different view rotation rates to address the balance between movement efficiency with minimal risk for inducing motion sickness.