The U.S. Army Embarks on Virtual Worlds for Amputees

Avess_02_small Yesterday we discussed how virtual worlds are expanding our perceptions of body modification and increasing understanding about injuries that result in amputation.

Mental perceptions may be evolving, but what about ensuring access to virtual worlds for those with disabilities?

Pixels and Policy looks at the growing trend in developing an amputee-friendly Metaverse, and the role new "accessible worlds" will play in improving the lives of amputees.

Virtual Worlds for Wounded Warriors

The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command recently funded a project to develop virtual worlds for military amputees. The new environment aims to provide peer-support services to recovering soldiers, as well as providing a therapeutic environment where amputees can explore and communicate with others in similar situations.

ADL Company, the firm responsible for developing the virtual environment, has high hopes:

“For individuals with disabilities, virtual worlds are a powerful way
to connect with others, to access peer support and to participate in
activities that might not otherwise be possible,” said Alice Krueger,
VAI president. “This project will establish the best way to adopt this
technology for the unique needs of the military amputee community.”

Doug Thompson, a spokesperson for ADL, commented, “We have successfully
used virtual-world technology in a number of areas, including as part
of a long-standing project with the U.S. government Joint Medical
Executive Skills Institute, through which we provide leadership
training to healthcare professionals.

This isn't the first time virtual worlds focused on soldiers. Last month Pixels and Policy investigated how one former soldier built a virtual environment to help military families cope when their loved ones received deployment orders. Jaque Davison's Activeworlds projects was a personal project. Now ADL's construction has the backing of the United States Army.

The transition from military service to civilian life can be daunting, especially when that transition includes a lengthy medical rehabilitation and adjusting to life as an amputee. The military now seems keenly aware of the therapeutic powers of the Metaverse.

As ADL says, virtual worlds geared towards amputees can smooth the transition back to regular life:

“Individuals come into virtual environments as a way to connect with
others who have disabilities…. What they discover is that you don’t
just find a community, you find a place where you can express yourself
and feel like you have a shared space. It’s powerful."

The ability to interact and share experiences provides mobility to otherwise (temporarily) immobile soldiers. Instead of spending hours sitting in a hospital bed, the user can interact with other wounded troops nationwide, exploring their stories and finding strength through shared trauma.

What do you think? Does increasing the accessibility of virtual worlds to amputees have positive consequences for their readjustment to life after a major amputation? Could virtual communities provide low-cost therapy and social networking for soldiers looking to readjust to life stateside?