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Exploring Apathy Through Virtual Reality: Our Experience at the Toronto Public Library Roadshow

Last week, our team had the pleasure of attending an engaging event at the Toronto Public Library. Alongside several other organizations, we had the opportunity to showcase our work and share valuable information with the community. At our table, we set up a virtual reality (VR) station where attendees could experience our apathy scenario. This immersive experience allowed participants to step into the shoes of someone with dementia experiencing apathy, fostering a deeper understanding of this emotional state. 

Collecting and analyzing this feedback is a crucial part of our process. If applicable, we incorporate the suggestions and make adjustments to enhance the overall experience. Our goal is to create a tool that not only educates but also fosters genuine understanding and empathy for those experiencing apathy. 


Since our last roadshow at Baycrest Hospital, we have had the opportunity to utilize the feedback received to make crucial changes to our prototype. For instance, participants mentioned having difficulty navigating the virtual environment. Users can now simply teleport to their desired location within the scenario to allow for a smoother experience. It was also stated that they experienced a strain on their neck while looking down to read the dialogue. Hence, we made sure to move subtitles and choices higher, so that players do not have to look down constantly. Moreover, snap rotation has been enabled so that users can take a look around the room more easily. This new change is especially helpful when completing specific tasks, such as finding and providing the mother with the photo album. 


Additionally, the simulation now features an updated mother avatar in a seated position with facial expressions and breathing animation. The mother’s face now has the ability to reflect anxiety, aversion, revulsion and neutrality, creating a more life-like avatar that 

users can engage with. In fact, we were glad to hear one participant at Toronto Public Library comment that their experience with virtual ‘mom’ accurately reflected her experiences as a caregiver who has lived experience!


The main goal of our VR demonstration was to gather feedback from participants on how they felt while immersed in the scenario. We asked them what aspects they found impactful and what they wished they could change. Their insights are invaluable to us, as we strive to improve our VR experiences based on real user feedback. As demonstrated at Baycrest Hospital, we hope to take the feedback received at Toronto Public Library and use it to further improve the immersive experience. It is a joint effort with participants and the VR-Sim Carers team to bring you the best learning experience possible. 


We were thrilled to see a diverse group of people eager to try on the VR headset and share their thoughts. Many expressed how the scenario opened their eyes to the nuances of apathy and encouraged them to think differently about this often misunderstood emotion. 

Events like these are essential for connecting with the community and refining our work. We are grateful to the Toronto Public Library for hosting such a fantastic event and to all the participants who took the time to engage with our VR scenario. We were especially pleased to hear that many of our participants resonated with the scenario, and were appreciative of our efforts to promote knowledge mobilization and dementia education amongst caregivers. This event was highly rewarding, enabling us to gain valuable insights from the caregivers who visited our booth and gather significant data. Their feedback helps us grow and makes a substantial difference. We extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who showed interest and contributed, and we look forward to our next roadshow with great excitement.



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