Harnessing Emerging Technologies to Deliver Ecologically Valid Precision Therapeutics 

R. Kalunga, F. Elshobokshy
University of the District of Columbia,
United States

Keywords: virtual reality, VR, simulation, Therapeutics, interventions, Research, SLP, Education, accessibility, Immersive technologies, Highered, clinicalpractice


In recent years, the development of immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) has progressed significantly, and they have become more accessible. Research and controlled trials have shown that the use of VR for achieving therapeutic goals is effective. Therefore, VR products have potential advantages for health-related training and care and can create markets with suitable returns on investment. Through its ability to capture and recreate therapeutic interactions in virtual environments, VR use has implications for educational simulation and therapeutic intervention. In educational simulation, VR presents unique opportunities to improve educational outcomes by increasing engagement, enriching learning experiences, increasing knowledge retention, and improving understanding. In therapeutic intervention, personalizable virtual environments in VR offer unique means of delivering precision therapeutics to a wider variety and larger number of people who currently lack access to adequate interventions. As a public, historically Black, and urban land-grant university that serves underserved populations, the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) is charged with leading change and promoting equity by providing access to life-changing resources. The UDC-VR Training & Research Hub (UDC VRTR Hub) serves as a research hub for UDC faculty and students in Speech-Language Pathology and connects with the District of Columbia (DC) community via the UDC Speech and Hearing Clinic and DC public and charter schools. As UDC is consistently working on creating an impact to advance effective state-of-the-art training and clinical practice, the UDC-VRTR serves as a model for effectively harnessing innovative VR training and precision therapeutics that are high quality, safe, and ecologically valid to advance student learning and address the emerging needs of community professionals and residents. The UDC-VR Training & Research Hub (UDC VRTR Hub) consists of virtual reality headsets (PC-VR), powerful computers, and applications. The PC-VRs physically connect to computers via cables, such as HDMI and/or USB. Tethered virtual reality headsets are currently much more immersive than other types of VR due to the high-quality experience they can deliver. These premium VR headsets provide freedom of motion in combination with high-quality VR experiences powered by high-performance computers. PC-VR visually transports users to computer-generated 3D environments where users feel completely immersed. They provide tracking accuracy and graphics quality. The UDC-VR Training & Research Hub (UDC VRTR Hub) has customizable software applications for researchers and clinicians, where they can place an individual inside a speaking situation and customize the virtual environment in real-time or beforehand. The speaking situations can be personalized in various ways, including choosing avatars, placing the clients in different locations, and choosing different voices. Data is exportable to advance research, client and educational outcomes.