In the first episode of Good Vibes with VIVE, Pearly Chen talks with MyndVR CEO and co-founder Chris Brickler about the love, care and compassion that drives MyndVR’s mission of bringing smiles to faces. MyndVR is a VIVE portfolio company and the leading provider of VR services to older adults, and is at the forefront of improving the lives of our aging population. Hear how Chris and MyndVR are improving the mood and well-being of patients, what they observed during the pandemic, and the connections that VR can restore for those in the final chapter of their lives.
Episode 01: Show Notes.
In response to the problems older adults face, MyndVR has created an easy to use, safe platform which allows seniors to access an amazing variety of content created by international creators. Chris also shares MyndVR's vision and the response that MyndVR has received from users, reveals the details of his ongoing research.
Key Points From This Episode:
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
[00:00:03] PC: Welcome to Good Vibes with VIVE. I'm your host Pearly Chen. I'm an executive with global technology company HTC. As a mother of three young girls, I've loved to building and investing in profound immersive technologies that make a positive difference in people's lives. Each week I speak with founders at the forefront of VR, AR in the Metaverse. All of them inspire me and some I've been lucky enough to back as an investor. Tune in every week to hear some of the most inspiring close to our conversations and walk away informed, inspired and full of good vibes.
[00:00:44] PC: Today, I'm very excited to have my friend Chris Brickler here as my guest, as we talk about how virtual reality can play a role in improving the quality of life for senior citizens. Chris Brickler is the CEO of MyndVR of VIVE X Portfolio Company, very proud to have the opportunity to back them from early on. We're really trying to address a problem of the fast aging population, who of course, was disproportionately affected during this pandemic as well. Without further ado, I like to introduce Chris to introduce MyndVR and himself, before we dive into our conversation today.
[00:01:23] CB: Thank you, Pearly for the invite today, this is exciting. I really appreciate the fact that you're putting together a podcast that is about focused energy on how the technology is being used in a good way. MyndVR, we've been focused for, really the last four years on trying to improve the lives of older adults. Why we are so excited about that is because older people don't have the chances to travel as much anymore or connect with things in their lives that they used to connect with. So what we figured out as a way to build a platform that's very easy to use, secure, safe and affordable, and allow the seniors then to access this wonderful content that so many great producers around the world have been producing.
[00:02:14] PC: I love how you're starting from the point of view from the end user, the older adults, as we started this journey of commercializing green virtual reality to everyone. I guess, it's fair to say the few people try to consider the use from an older adults perspective. But in fact, they can be great beneficiaries of this amazing technology. Despite you might think that they're they are probably less naturally adept at adopting new technology. As we have seen through mind viewers work, this can be tremendous and tangible, everyday impact in their lives.
But maybe, before we dive into how MyndVR brings us magic, to bring smiles to faces with my favorite mission. We can talk about defining the problem a little bit, as we understand from research 10,000 people in US alone are retiring on a daily basis, right? We haven't realized aging population, not just here in the US, but really globally as well. As people are getting older, they knock on wood, hopefully live healthy, productive lives flowing into their retirement. Other times they make start to require more assistance. That's where oftentimes they start to encounter various problems of isolation, loneliness.
[00:03:37] CB: Well, yeah, I think, the couple of things at play here. Number one is, as people do get older, the four walls that they live in, start to shrink. They also start to face age related conditions. Dementia is a big problem. Alzheimer's is a very, very big problem. So if there's ways that we can bring technology to brighten their day, improve their mood, possibly improve their behavior, and bring a world back to them to where they can swim with dolphins, if they want to, they could make the choice to go to Paris. They can make the choice to go to the International Space Station, but they do get to make that choice.
When you provide this technology across the continuum of care, which is what we do, that includes independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, all the way to hospice care. I mean, some of the most exciting things that we're doing are allowing families and folks that are in their final days of transition, to go on Safaris in Africa together, as a family. It's just a beautiful thing when you can connect nature in that way with those families.
[00:04:52] PC: I love that. Alzheimer's disease, as you have noticed, impacts at least 44 million adults globally is the latest data, I have. That's the number of people who are living today with Alzheimer's disease or another related form of dementia, right? Could you maybe share some of the studies that MyndVR has conducted in the efficacy of using immersive technology to improve your sense of well-being?
[00:05:21] CB: Yeah, good question, good discussion. There's a lot to unpack in that area. Number one, pharmacology, I think, will have a big role in things like reducing the physical plaque that happens inside our brains, as we age, right? There are combinational therapies that we're working hard with some of the pharmacology companies actually right now, where we take the medicinal science and we blend that with this reminiscence therapy in very immersive therapy that we can bring with VR headsets, and bring people back to different time zones, teleport them to different music times, bring melodies into their lives, again, all these things that we can do with virtual reality. Well, that combined with some of the pharmacology advancements are is actually really pretty, pretty cool. I think there's a very, very bright future for the combination of those two, and I don't, I don't really see those as two different things. I see those as working together really well.
[00:06:28] PC: Right, so maybe we can help our audience understand a little bit more about the reminiscence therapy that you talked about, essentially, it's immersing oneself into a memory that he or she might fondly recount and in the process of doing, so the extracting, repeating the cognition, to strengthen their memory so that they might come out with some therapeutic benefits, lots of mentioned, the lift in moods and sense of well-being. This is where some studies are reporting that reminiscence therapy may help alleviate these depression related substance and other behavioral symptoms in in seniors.
[00:07:06] CB: Yeah, that's actually a great question and point of discussion. 2020, I thought, brought tremendous shift in a lot of our thinking, as health care workers, as health care companies, and people wanting to provide a better life for people. When the pandemic hit, in March of 2020, we were all scratching our heads like, what is going to happen here. One thing that became very, very clear for us, at least in the rest of 2020, was that MyndVR and the content that we were serving up to seniors, was really helping with some of these feelings of isolation, and isolation then brings on depression. There's, there's definite studies out there that link heavy depression with mortality rate with older people.
So what we wanted to do, was get out in front upstream, and try to make people as happy as possible, smiles on faces, you've mentioned that earlier. That's actually a really big part of our strategy is to bring smiles and happiness and laughter to these folks that are in unfortunate situations. Now, that does occur across different types of age related conditions. But what we did see in 2020, was a severe level of isolation. That was largely in part, because the providers that we work with, our customers who are the largest providers of senior care, their number one goal was to isolate the virus and make sure that the health, the physical health of these people was spot on.
So we supported them, 100% on that. Once we got over that hurdle, then it became about like, “Okay, now, everyone's feeling isolated and depressed. How do we bring virtual reality into the mix, and really allow these people to feel different on a daily basis?” We've seen that over and over and over. I want to make it very clear that MyndVR is not a cure for any type of age related condition. But what we have looked at very hard are some of the symptoms and the side effects that come along with age related conditions, whether it be dementia or Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, a stroke, rehabilitation, all those type of things and then bring a network of content in that really help with the healing modality associated with that.
[00:09:43] PC: I also read this 39% of COVID related deaths in the US have occurred in nursing facilities. That's why you also mentioned how physical isolation of nursing facility residents, were absolutely critical in keeping them safe. So what that meant was really no more visits from families and their loved ones and their physical isolation really can came at a great cost of emotional, emotional loneliness and depression.
[00:10:13] CB: So you hit on a couple of really good points there. I thought, one is that connection, as we get older, we do lose connections with nature, we lose connections with music, we lose connections with art. What we can do with virtual reality, though, is actually bring a lot of that back in such a powerful way. What we've found is that older folks love virtual reality, because it just brings this whole new union to them, that they haven't seen ever before in their lives. We can do it in a way that's really safe and again, really, really therapeutic. The great thing about what we've done with that MyndVR, as we've also connected these care tablets. So the caregivers can now also be part of this adventure. I tell you what, that becomes really special when you see those family connections or those caregiver connections. It just becomes such a beautiful thing.
[00:11:12] PC: Yeah, that's so cool. I think that virtual reality is isolating, or a lonely experience, but not at all. It can very easily made a shared experience as well with your loved ones and friends joining you in that virtual environment and making those tours together and co-creating new memories. That's so powerful.
[00:11:31] CB: It's about co-creating new memories. That probably drives me the most personally, because it's so beautiful when you do see that happen with families. Either they recreate a memory that could have happened 30 or 40 years ago together or they co-create a new memory. But the medium is so powerful. It's more powerful than anything we've ever seen across TV or television.
[00:11:59] PC: Right. Right. Absolutely, and thinking about how when you take a veteran on a flying experience, for example, that reminds him of his fighter jet flying days, how that reminiscence therapy therapeutic benefits come in, while he completely relives his glorious past as well as co-create this new memory that may enhance his sense of well, it’s the sense of well-being as well. All of those different factors come together to bring that experience to the users.
[00:12:31] CB: We work a lot with veteran homes and the VA as well. There's a lot we can do with virtual reality to help with their healing. These guys just love the content.
[00:12:46] PC: What can you tell us about engagement? How many nursing facilities you currently work with? What do we know about the residents continued engagement with this experience?
[00:12:59] CB: Well, so engagement has been really, really high. We've done hundreds of communities in North America, Canada, Australia, UK. One of the studies that I to talk about is, a group out of California called Silverado, a memory care group. They did three different sites where their physicians came together and studied MyndVR, in a very deep way. What they came up with was that over 80% of the residents in memory care, diagnoses of pretty serious mild cognitive impairment all the way to dementia to Alzheimer's. 80% plus, we're positive to neutral to using virtual reality, MyndVR on a weekly basis. That was a real eye opener to us.
The second thing that they reported was that they saw over a 30% increase in positive behavioral increases. So if we can use VR in a way that is measured, recorded and put into the infrastructure, then we have a real chance of helping people and the staffs that are working with these folks really improving their lives on both ends.
[00:14:18] PC: Absolutely. Now you provide MyndVR in home care solution as well, outside of the nursing facilities.
[00:14:27] CB: During the pandemic, we realize that MyndVR can really work well for home use. We developed a home use product application, serving hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of families all over the country on this right now. What we've learned from that is that families and older loved ones are not going to move into communities, can still get the same benefits of MyndVR, and all the wonderful things that we bring to the communities, we can bring to the homes. That was part of a big breakthrough in the pandemic here.
[00:15:05] PC: That's so great. So what are some of the exciting product updates and things that we should be watching out for, coming from MyndVR in the next 18 to 24 months?
[00:15:15] CB: One of the very exciting projects that we have at MyndVR right now is working with Stanford and the Human Virtual Interaction Lab with Jeremy Bailenson. That project is intended to be the largest study that's ever been done with virtual reality and in the senior audience. That is so exciting. So we're trying to understand mood shifting, we're trying to understand behavior improvements. We're also trying to understand adoption of other technologies that might come along with virtual reality that might help the senior case.
Then finally, really trying to understand that improvement of relationship between the caregiver and that older adult using virtual reality, because we know the power is so strong and we've observed this for a long time. So Stanford has actually stepped up and has agreed to do a massive study that's going to be a sample size of probably 1500 or more seniors that would be part of that in partnership with MyndVR.
AT&T has also come into the study as well. So we're now using AT&T 5G Technology as a way to rapidly move research data between residents and the Stanford team. That's what's probably most exciting for us, Pearly, to be honest with you, is that whole ecosystem that's coming together with Stanford Research and with AT&T network behind MyndVR now, and then with what we're doing with all of our content. So we couldn't be more excited –
[00:16:58] PC: That is really, really exciting. Sounds likes it will be a very busy and productive coming year.18 to 24 months putting all these different technologies, including 5G network deployment to work for very good use to serve the senior population. What have we learned in designing in user experience that makes the senior older adults comfortable and enjoy and intrusive, immersive experience compared to otherwise your regular for your audience, that you can share with us?
[00:17:28] CB: We really focus on those folks that are 75 and older. Ergonomics becomes very important. How does it feel? How does the weight balance? One thing I love about the Focus 3 and I think we were one of the first recipients in all of North America to receive the focus three. The balancing of the battery and the weight now is going to make a big difference with older people. That's a big important part of our strategy is making sure that the technology is comfortable.
Second, what I do about the HTC Focus 3 is that we have multiple cameras on front now. We can start to employ hand tracking applications that tie into specific physical and occupational therapies. That has never been really possible. I think was our partnership with HTC and with what we're developing right now under the hood and what's going to just overall evolve in the rest of 2021 here, is just going to be beautiful from that point of view, because at the end of the day, VR has a big purpose in solving healthcare and medical problems, rehabilitation, all these kinds of things. The more that we can get in front of that it's just a really bright future. Let's put it that way.
[00:18:55] PC: Thank you, Chris. Last question here, what's your ultimate dream and vision that, where do you want to take MyndVR?
[00:19:01] CB: I think long term, MyndVR becomes a staple, a brand, and a staple within the idea of aging. When we age, we have no idea what those type of aging conditions are going to be. We do know one thing and that is that the actual diagnosis rates are increasing. If there's ways that virtual reality can help diagnosis, help really work with people on a therapeutic level. I think we feel successful in the next three to five years on something like that.
[00:19:42] PC: We will feel very successful if we can play a role in supporting your path there to impact millions and millions of older adults life from VR bringing smiles to faces. Thank you, Chris, so much for being with us here today to discuss how MyndVR plays a role, and Virtual Reality plays the role, in improving quality of life for older adults. Thank you. We'll talk soon.
[00:20:05] PC: Thank you for listening. Please subscribe and share this podcast with a colleague or friend that you think could use some good vibes. Learn more at VIVE.com and follow HTC VIVE on social media. See you next week.