Suffolk County Council launch VR programme to support people living with dementia

Suffolk County Council has awarded £80,000 to Spark Emerging Technologies Ltd, to build a platform that supports virtual reality experiences for people who are living with dementia in Suffolk.

Following an open tender process in 2022, the procurement was won by Spark to produce a VR application that is co-produced with service users.

The contract will be split in two phases. The first phase involves the creation of a service user group who will be involved in the design, structure and look of the VR app to make sure it is fit for use.

The app will be used with a VR headset alongside a tablet with a “formal or informal carer to drive the VR experience.”

Phase one will also see the development of several VR experiences built upon suggestions on Suffolk-based places and activities that will have the most impact. Each VR film will be trialled in different care settings for people with dementia to attend.

In phase two, Spark will “openly commercialise the solution” while enabling accredited care settings accross Suffolk to benefit from the solution at a reduced rate.

Councillor Beccy Hopfensperger, Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Adult Care, said: “The evidence shows that VR can deliver improved outcomes for people living with dementia, as well as their loved ones and carers, by helping to provide a fuller and more satisfying quality of life. I look forward to seeing how this project progresses and how it helps to support the health and wellbeing of our residents.”

Dan Betts, Managing Director of Spark Emerging Technologies Ltd, added: “We are currently seeing huge interest in emerging technology solutions, with the birth of the metaverse and virtual/augmented reality. To be involved in a project that will have unequivocal value to the end user, enriching the lives of people living with dementia, is a fantastic opportunity that we are honoured to be a part of.”

To view the VR project, click here.