KOVR tests made-in-Edmonton VR platform with diabetes patients


Edmonton-based virtual reality developer KOVR has started testing its new VR platform with patients diagnosed with diabetes. The software, Stratos, aims to educate patients about the consequences of vision impairment from diabetic retinopathy.

"This whole concept is desired to reduce catastrophic eye failure due to diabetes through education," KOVR’s chief marketing officer Michael Bowman told Taproot. “By doing so, we can reduce the surgical cost to the healthcare system.”

Bowman explained that the goal with Stratos is to build learning and education modules for patients and the wider medical community.

KOVR has already tested the beta version of Stratos in addition to its first piece of education software, the Diabetic Retinopathy Module (DRM), and selected a group of patients for the testing.

"We've created an experience called the DRM, and we are now able to put diabetic patients into real-world environments … where they're going to be challenged to do everyday tasks," explained Bowman. "They're going to be exposed to the type of vision loss they may be subjected to if they do not follow the recommended treatment and examination plans put forward by their doctors."

Edmonton-based VR developer KOVR has started testing a new VR platform with patients diagnosed with diabetes. (Courtesy of Business Wire)

Edmonton-based VR developer KOVR has started testing a new VR platform with patients diagnosed with diabetes. (Courtesy of Business Wire)

According to the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS), more than 11 million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes, and approximately 30% of them have regular eye exams.

"The patient testing will occur over the next four months and that will form the bulk of the research that's being compiled with the University of Alberta," said Bowman.

“We will use the patient testing to validate our premise that it is a profound experience that they see the benefits and the impact of using this type of learning to measurably change their outlook and mindset on getting regular eye (exams)."

Bowman told Taproot that KOVR has been working remotely which has made in-person testing challenging. 

KOVR has been working with researchers from the University of Alberta and has received $250,000 in funding support from Alberta Innovates through the eXtended Reality Health Economic Acceleration and Development (xR HEAD) program.

"The DRM goes beyond any pamphlet or poster informing diabetic patients why paying attention to their eye health is important," said Dr. Karim Damji, chair of the U of A's department of ophthalmology and visual sciences. 

"Being able to show how their vision can deteriorate and enabling them to experience it in a simulated virtual reality manner can better instill in our diabetic patients how critical it is for them to regularly monitor their eye health to prevent or mitigate future vision loss."

Correction: One instance of Michael Bowman's name was written as "Brown" in the initial story and has since been corrected.