My name is Rhys, a first time dad blogging about my adventures and experiences of being a parent. [email protected]

Welsh-language virtual reality experience helps users understand dementia

A new virtual reality (VR) experience has launched which will help users understand how it feels to be suffering from dementia – in English and Welsh.

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

The VR experience made its debut at the Pioneering Wales: Cymraeg 2050 Technology, which took place on 26thApril and was attended by the Minister for the Welsh Language and Lifelong learning Eluned Morgan.

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.

The experience aims to be as realistic as possible so users can have an increased level of awareness and understanding about those who are suffering from 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.”

This project has been made possible thanks to the help of 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.”

With a total of £425,000 awarded across 26 innovative projects, other key funding includes projects from the Welsh Rugby Union, RNIB and the National Trust.