Virtual Reality is here to stay in the senior living space. In this episode of Raising Tech, our host Amber Bardon sits down with Carrie Cusker, Director of Innovation & Strategy, and Yasmine De Aranda, Head of Marketing, of Embodied Labs.
Embodied Labs’ first-person Fully-Immersive via Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and Web-Immersive via Browser experiences allow caregivers to step into the shoes of the people they care for, providing a memorable accelerated learning experience that traditional training methods cannot equal.
Learn how Embodied Labs empowers caregivers to confidently be the support, champion, and provider that the aging community and their families need.
Welcome to raising tech, a podcast about all things, technology and senior living. I'm your host, Amber bar virtual reality might sound like something that's far into the future when it comes to application in the senior living industry. But in fact, it's actually here and live in many communities. Today's show is featuring embodied labs. One of the companies that's bringing virtual reality to actual reality in the senior living space. Joining me today is Carrie Cuker , director of innovations and strategy and Yamin Dr. Endo head of marketing from embodied labs. Welcome to the show.Speaker 2:
Thank you. Thank you.Speaker 1:
So I am so interested to hear about how did Embodi labs come into being, what was the concept like what was the inspiration to bring virtual reality to senior living ? Can you talk a little bit about that?Speaker 2:
Yeah, so the founder stories , really part of what I love so much about this company. Um, Carrie Shaw , who's our founder and CEO. Uh, she became a family caregiver at a very young age. Um, late teens, her mom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease and in her early twenties, she became a full-time caregiver for her mom. Uh, and she didn't know anything about being a caregiver. So she was trying to understand how to keep her mom safe and give her great days and kind of work with what she had going on. And she realized that by using , um, she had these glasses, these goggles that she taped up with duct tape to , um, kind of mimic the visual deficit that her mom had. And when she put the goggles on, she could immediately see , uh , what her mom saw and understand that she had to protect her one side because she had a visual field deficit and she used this tool with , um, the home health, a who came in to help them really understand how to best care for her mom and why they needed to, you know, turn her plate so that she could actually see the rest of the food. It was really strange, you know, she was only eating exactly half her plate. Once they put these pieces together, they spun the plate and she would finish her meal. So it was really this very simple tool that grew into this idea of what, if we could allow people to actually step into the shoes of someone living with a visual deficit or living with dementia and really experience the world through their eyes. And so she was in her postgraduate degree at that point and was thinking about how could she, you know, make this a reality and connected with our co-founder Thomas Lehe to build this in a VR application so that when you put the VR headset on, you actually embody the person living with the condition, and that was the start of embodied labs. And now it's grown into this amazing library. We have over 550 , uh , minutes of content. So there's so much to choose from different life conditions. And , um, we're really just kind of helping to raise awareness throughout the aging spectrum.Speaker 1:
It's so interesting how so many people who are founders came from an experience with the industry like that to go on and start a company to solve a specific problem. So tell me a little bit more about who is your target audience for embodied labs. And can you describe a little bit more about exactly what does embodied labs do and how does it help? How does it help improve care in senior living communities?Speaker 2:
Yeah, so our target audience , um, is anybody who's going to have contact with an older adult. So it could really be pretty much anyone. Um, we started strong in the senior living space, but we've also expanded into government and academics and retail corporations to kind of prepare people for how to work with different individuals, you know, in their day to day dealings. So , uh , for example, my customer story, before I worked for embodied labs, I was a nurse educator at a long-term care facility. And we got this technology because our CNAs actually found it at a conference and said, oh my God, we need this. This is amazing. So anyway, we got the technology, we implemented it with direct care staff. And for the first time they were able to understand what the residents life felt like and what care felt like , uh , from their perspective. And it really changed them. Virtual reality has this weight of creating a perceived lived experience. So when, when you have this perceived lived experience, your brain thinks that it's actually happened to you and it creates a memory. And through that memory, it's developing , um, new pathways and a , a deeper understanding of what it means to have this condition and how to proactively care for someone , um , whether it's turning on the lights or muting the television or being aware of , uh , fall hazards or, or safety hazards in the home. You're aware of things that you wouldn't have been , um , without having this experience. And that's really been powerful as far as seeing lasting change with our caregivers.Speaker 1:
Can you walk me through, what does it feel like when you put on this VR headset? What does the person actually experience and how is it different from just watching a video on YouTube? For example,Speaker 2:
That's a really good question. So with our virtual reality experiences, we embody the person living with the condition. So for example, if you're embodying Alfred who has macular degeneration and high frequency hearing loss, once you are in the headset, you have this big black spot in the middle of your vision, you are hardly able to hear the people. In fact, it's funny because a lot of people will get in the headset and be like, can you turn it up? Something's wrong with the sound? No , that's just actually how the world sounds for you now experiencing life, experiencing the looks on people's faces when they're put off by something you've done or confused by a , you know, something that you're asking or a behavior that you're exhibiting, trying to navigate, even like a family dinner where you're just trying to grab your wine, but because you can't see you're knocking it over and causing this mess. And then how does that make you feel, you know, from a social perspective, what does that do to your self-esteem and your sense of wellbeing? So, you know, that's just one example of what people might feel when they're in the experience. We also talk about things like receiving a terminal diagnosis and having end of life discussions and the family dynamics that go along with that living as an older transgender adult. And how, how does that affect the care that you receive and just your quality of life when you've grown up in a time when discrimination was very real, you know, discrimination's still very real and how can we build a community that's a little bit kinder and more aware, and , um, how can we educate people on how to be an ally and, and be appropriate? Because a lot of times it's that people just don't know. Um, so we've really kind of run the gamut of, of these different conditions, social isolation, and , uh , Louis body dementia, and dealing with people who have a language deficit or who are struggling in some way with independence and how can we support them. So it's really, it's unlike anything I've ever experienced before.Speaker 1:
That's such a wide range of curriculum. That's a lot of scenarios I've never even considered. How do you, what's, I'm assuming as you , uh , your , uh , title of director of innovation strategy, how do you actually come up with these concepts and what to train people on?Speaker 2:
A lot of , um , the information, you know, our base foundational library with the macular degeneration and dementia and end of life . These are things that are, you know, very, very common in older adults. And this is the foundation for everything that we are creating now. And what's happened is we've kind of morphed and grown with society. Our social isolation lab came out right at the beginning of COVID , which was very timely. And it looks at life through the eyes of a recent widower and how, you know, he has kids and he's making efforts and it's , it's not really working out and how that isolation can become all consuming and really have some detrimental health effects. And it also shows the flip side, like what about when there are community resources and what about when families are engaged in the right way and able to really keep your life, you know, full of meaning and preserve your personhood, and what does that do to your physical health? So it's really this interesting dynamic. Some of our newer experiences are based on almost like a skill building curve, where I took things that I had noticed in , uh , my administrative role in the nursing home and thought about what do our caregivers really need? And a lot of what they need are these kind of problem solving communication skills and how do we allow them to practice some really difficult situations in a safe space. And so our customer service lab, you know, thinks about communication techniques with family and, and with coworkers and our elder safety and wellbeing takes a look at potentially dangerous situations with elder abuse and family members who are irate. And how do we diffuse a situation? So thinking about things like burnout of family caregivers, and the dangers associated with that, these things that we've really seen can impact , um, quality of life. And, you know, from a senior care facility standpoint, it impacts, you know, your, your state visits. And if you're getting dinged on this, that, and the other thing, if you have incidents with injury, if you have family complaints. So, you know, looking at all of those, like KPI measures and understanding how can we use our embodied technology to allow people to gain some of those skills and, and gain some emotional regulation, like a lot of new CNAs and nurses really struggle with end of life and postmortem care. So allowing them to go through the clay lab , they experience that. And they're a little bit desensitized so that they can be effective when the time comes to do that, you know, with a real person and a real family right there. So it's been exciting. And then, you know, the other pieces that our customers are sharing their wishes for content and their motivation, and we're doing some co-creations now. So we are just wrapping on one for social workers going into the home and how can a new social worker practice these home visits , um, assessing client capacity and their level of risk to make sure that people are safely aging in place that there's , um, the right resources implemented to make sure that they're getting their meals, that their bills are being paid, that their medications are managed. And again, allowing this to happen in a really safe space with , um, some interactivity and some problem solving along the way to , um, strengthen our, our home care fleet as more and more people are looking to age in place.Speaker 1:
Can you tell me a little bit about the protocol and usage of the system? So is there a set of trainings that you do up front , or is it more of an ongoing training and what is your typical client like? Are you focused on a specific level of care? Is it really across the whole spectrum of senior living services?Speaker 2:
We really focus on anybody who is interacting with the seniors. So it could be somebody in independent living or aging in the community. It could be somebody in long term care or hospital setting. There's a really strong interest right now in training first responders, to understand how to support someone living with dementia. So it really runs the gamut. And the way the library is built is that there is no prescribed curriculum. Um, people can really go in and utilize the pieces of the experiences that resonate with them. So for example, if you are supporting someone living with Alzheimer's, our Beatrice lab takes you through early, mid and late stage Alzheimer's, you might not need all three. You might already be at late stage, right? So, so there's a way that we can help , um, our customers kind of customize the experiences and the pathways that they're choosing to get the maximum impact in an efficient manner. The modules are meant to be consumed individually or as part of the larger story. So our character driven experiences, you can consume them part 1, 2, 3, but you don't have to, you can consume part two and still, you know, gain meaning and understanding of what the learning objectives are there. So, you know, we have the, the VR headsets and we also have a web immersive platform that has been really powerful to , um, to broaden our reach and to allow us to get this information to people who are at home and they don't have a virtual reality headset. So you can experience the exact same content in a web immersive format where it's a 360 video, you are still interacting. It's, it's the same experience, but it's web immersive as opposed to a fully immersive , uh , model. So that's been really exciting for us to, to get this into the hands of the people who need it,Speaker 1:
Is this meant to be used along with more traditional training modules, or is this intended as a replacement for those other types of training out there such as reliance , for example.Speaker 2:
Yeah. So reliance is great for, for skill building and knowledge checks, and they really, they're a great company. I have the utmost respect for Relias , what we offer that is unique. That's kind of our differentiator is this first person perspective and the ability to, to become someone else for a few moments and really experience their life and that condition, people care about things that touch them directly. And these experiences leave you with a memory of being touched directly by it what's happening, is that without even thinking about it, caregivers are naturally driven to have this actionable empathy and to, to really propel change and to advocate for better practices of higher standards of care, to preserve dignity and elevate the human above the condition. Um, so often we get lost in our task list and we end up thinking about, oh, I have to get these three people dressed today instead of, oh, how's Mary doing, you know, like what would give Mary A. Good day and being present in that moment? So our experiences, you know, give people that moment of ownership over the condition and to really like, have it resonate in a way where it does mean something and it does ignite action and, and change in a way that traditional learning formats typically don't,Speaker 1:
That's really interesting. I didn't think of it from that perspective. I think that there is, you know, a trend overall in society to have some ageism against seniors. And I, I think it's really impactful that you're actually forming these em empathy , uh , memories, if you wanna call it that way, that's almost kind of shifting the way people think about older adults in our community . So that's really , uh , a great outcome. I know that some of our clients are using virtual reality for residents and their life enrichment programs is embodied labs focused on that. Or can you talk a little bit about the difference between virtual reality for staff and virtual reality for residents?Speaker 2:
Sure. So embodied labs typically focuses on the people who are supporting the older adult , um, with the condition, our, our focus is not on the residents themselves. And, you know, if you think about it, if I'm going to put you, you know, behind the eyes of someone living with dementia and you have dementia that might be really scary , um, or confusing or disorienting, it's, it's not gonna be beneficial. Um, there's a company called mind VR that a lot of senior services use that is amazing, and they offer these virtual reality headsets that give you a breath of different experiences. You can visit the Eiffel tower, you can go underwater, you can go on a roller coaster through VR and for resident engagement. Those are the companies that , um, that's their focus and that's, that's their niche. So I think that there's , um , a ton out there endeavor is another company that does something similar. And what's been really cool is that you can have people in the headset, maybe someone's living in a senior community and they're in the headset. And you know, me as the granddaughter is at home and I put on a headset and we're able to talk and share this experience. So it's almost like we're there together. And that has been great for, you know, keeping people socially connected throughout the pandemic and just, you know, in ways when maybe it's not safe to be together in person, but to still feel like you're living this rich life. And it also gives people something to talk about like, oh, I just went skydiving before you arrived. That's amazing. Right now I have something to say instead of just, oh, I've been sitting in the chair, you know, watching TV or eating my snack. I just did something fantastic. And now I have something to add to the conversation. So it really helps people like, feel a sense of purpose and, and a sense of connectedness to the world in maybe ways that they're no longer able to physically be .Speaker 1:
Do you have any specific outcomes or any stories that you can share from any of the clients that you work with?Speaker 2:
So my favorite and probably because it affects me directly is that I did a caregiver support group using embodied labs technology. And it was a six week support group for people caring for someone living with dementia. And at the end of six weeks, we saw a 40% decrease in their perceived stress level. And to me, that was just such a profound outcome because being a caregiver is stressful and we all have other things going on in our lives. So it's not just being a caregiver, but it's also working a job and having a family and a house to take care of and bills to pay. So to be able to impact someone's perceived stress level in that profound way in six weeks was amazing to me. Um, so that is my favorite. I think overall, what we hear is that these experiences stick with people in a way. Um, we've had several comments from customers about, you know, oh, we did the Beatrice lab a year and a half ago, and people still talk about Beatrice and they still talk about, remember this, and you know, what about that? And it, it sticks with you. It leaves a little imprint on your heart and that has been consistent with our customers. It just, the experiences change you. And when you've been changed, it is reflected in everything that you do as a caregiver, as a human, the way that you interact with the world.Speaker 1:
Let's talk a little bit about what a community would need to do specifically to get started with the virtual reality program. So what would you say are the keys to success? And can you talk a little bit about the ROI or the budgeting process, which I know is always top of my question for our clients when they're considering new technology.Speaker 3:
So let me jump in on, on the question on , uh , on what a community would, would need to look at that. I think , um, it starts, I think with defining that use case and the goals and looking at, you know, the different ways in which embodied labs could be , uh , could be used for instance. So if you're looking to increase, let's say the number of move-ins or the number of professional referrals , uh , if you're looking to have community outreach , um, if you're looking to onboard higher trained staff. So all of those use cases are opportunities that embodied labs can definitely, you know, be , uh , in support of , in terms of demonstrating success in ROI. Uh , there's definitely a shift in how people care. Uh , we see the transformation, we see that they become way more proactive in their approach as opposed to reactive. So there is definitely a shift in behavior, a shift in, in the ability, a shift in empathy level. So being able to understand what , uh , the residents are going through and themselves, obviously, you know , being better prepared for that from a , uh , from a learning perspective, if we were to compare, you know, traditional methods over VR, immersive, or web immersive, you know, we can, we can say that it's, it's four times higher retention rate of learning that provides them with such greater confidence to perform their , their job on a day to day basis. And it's definitely, you know, it's definitely more , uh , impactful and transformative than , uh , than a traditional PowerPoint or even in person or even simulation teams. So those are all positive trends that we're , uh , we're seeing over and over.Speaker 1:
I'm really curious to hear, I always ask all of our guests this, what do you think is next with virtual reality technology? What do you see is the future evolution of this type of technology in the industry?Speaker 2:
I imagine there being almost like this marketplace for caregivers to go in the metaverse, to be able to , um, to get the support that they need to, to understand what, what is out there for them, and to be able to be connected with the world at times when they really need it. So, you know, for example, if you're, if you're able to go in and you need caregiver support, to be able to jump into a caregiver support community meeting, you know, forum, to be able to feel less alone regardless of the time of day, and to be able to connect with other real people, going through similar situations , um, to be able to get like caregiver 1 0 1 training in virtual reality, where you're actually interacting and physically practicing, like how do I transfer someone? How do I keep someone safe in the bathtub? Um, or, you know, in a shower chair, if they become combative, like how do I work through these things? We've seen so much as far as simulations , um , in VR for like surgical procedures and these really detailed, like medical procedures that are being done. And I think the caregiving piece needs to be next because we have so many people aging in place. And 80% of people who are family caregivers are the sole source of support for their loved one. They don't have other people coming in, they don't have a professional backing them up other than like their doctor visits. So being able to go into virtual reality and, and have the opportunity to practice with an expert facilitating this, you know, and seeing like how AI has come so far, as far as , um , being able to really like support people in just managing their mental health and being able to track things like, you know, depression or risk of falls or heightened confusion and speak to that in a proactive manner. I think it's just gonna , it's just gonna explode.Speaker 1:
That sounds really exciting. Karen Yasin , thank you so much for all the great information, where can our listeners find you?Speaker 3:
So thank you very much for having us , uh , Amber , uh , you can find us on our website. So www.embodilabs.com . Uh , you can fill in a contact us form or a request with us , uh , request a demo form , sorry. And , uh, and one of our , uh , one of our team members will , uh , will get in touch and , um , and take it from there.Speaker 1:
Listeners, thank you so much for joining us today. If you have ideas and topics you'd like to hear featured on the show, please visit our website parol alliance.com and go to our resources page to submit a topic. You can also follow us on Instagram at Paris Alliance or in LinkedIn by searching Paris Alliance. Thank you for listening.