Welsh-language virtual reality experience helps users understand dementia

Date: 04/07/2018
Strip newydd AGW

A virtual reality (VR) experience which allows users to understand how it feels to be living with dementia – in English and Welsh will be launching on the 5th of July at Galeri Caernarfon.

Funded by Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig and the Welsh Government’s Cymraeg 2050 Grant, the project was led by Gwynedd Council and created with bespoke creative agency Galactig. The VR experience aims to mirror how dementia patients feel on a day-to-day basis.

Made up of a headset and controllers, which look like a person’s hands, the VR experience allows users to turn 360 degrees and see a scene set by the VR programme.

Scenarios available on the system include simple tasks around the home, such as making a cup of tea in the kitchen; a voice through the headset speaks to you in the same way a person with dementia may think e.g. telling you to put an electric kettle on the hob, in order to demonstrate the confusion dementia patients feel.

Derick Murdoch, Creative Director at creative agency Galactig explains “This is a groundbreaking use of VR technology to teach soft skills in Welsh and English. We have created an experience which allows you to interact with everyday objects using virtual hands which aid users in fully immersing themselves in the narrative.”

The experience aims to be as realistic as possible, so users can have an increased level of awareness and understanding about those who are living with the disease.

Project leader Meilys Heulfryn Smith explains why it’s particularly important for this programme to be in the Welsh language: “When a person develops dementia, they may often lose the ability to communicate in their second language. This technology paints a poignant picture of this experience, immersing the user in a situation where they recognise the need for actions to manage the task, and the words associated with those actions, but are simply not able to retrieve them.

“This very real frustration is felt by thousands of people in Wales each day, and we hope that the VR experience will increase awareness and understanding of the challenges this disease brings.

 “Dementia is a difficult and sensitive subject for many families across Wales, and this project gives family members the chance to handle this as an issue in Welsh, as being able to use your first language during a difficult time is often comforting.”

The experience will be launched on the 5th of July 2018 in the Galeri Caernarfon at 6.30pm. The evening will be led by Dafydd Iwan and we will be joined by John Ogwen, Maureen Rhys and Catrin Mara, whose voices appear on the VR experience. Gwion Halam (Crown winner at the National Eisteddfod in 2017 for his poem about Dementia) will also join us as will Dr Catrin Hedd (specialist in dementia). There will also be an opportunity to try the VR experience whilst Mared Williams provides light entertainment.

The event is free but registration is required. To register please visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lansiad-yn-fy-nwylo-i-darlun-o-fyw-gyda-dementia-first-hand-launch-an-insight-into-living-with-tickets-47508799097

This project has been made possible thanks to the help of Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig who provided £17,080 and the Welsh Government’s Cymraeg 2050 Grant contribution of £20,000.

The Cymraeg 2050 Grant is a key element of the Welsh language strategy, Cymraeg 2050: A million Welsh speakers. It’s provided funds to innovative, short-term projects which aim to increase people’s daily use of the language and to promote technology which supports the use of Welsh.

Minister for the Welsh Language and Lifelong learning Eluned Morgan commented, “This project is imperative for those in the local community of Gwynedd to understand, in their first language, what their loved ones and members of their community who have dementia are experiencing.

“It’s important that such a sensitive issue can be explored in their first language and this important project helps this cause hugely.”

This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government. It’s also part funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Gwynedd Council.