RIT student using virtual reality to enrich lives of seniors

Local News

The technology is allowing them to experience things they might no longer be able to do

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A second-year RIT student is helping to improve the quality of life for local seniors through the use of virtual reality.

The program is called “EngageVR” and it’s based on Oculus Rift technology that has been growing in popularity with gamers. Grayson Barnes, who is majoring in game design and development at RIT, began researching practical applications for the technology with Watermark Retirement Communities two years ago.

“We’ve been researching the best options, how to use it, where to use it, whether it would be just an independent living thing or in all areas of care and it turns out it works very well in all areas,” said Barnes.

On Tuesday, Barnes took a break from moving in at RIT to show the seniors at Legacy at Maiden Park in Rochester how to use the program and VR goggles. Through EngageVR, they can experience immersive environments that include museums, national parks and even Google Earth.

“If someone really wanted to go to the Grand Canyon for example, but doesn’t have the mobility to go there anymore, they can just put on the headset and be right there,” said Barnes.

Clara Caranzi had a chance to use the technology for herself and her face lit up while talking about the experience.

“I liked it and I think people should see it. The first time I saw it, the fish, I was trying to grab the fish. I felt like I was there, trying to grab things.”

Watermark Retirement Communities plans to continue to find new and engaging ways to use the technology to improve quality of life for the aging and those with conditions like dementia.

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