Potential VR Projects to Help Veterans at High Risk for Mental Health Challenges - VHA SimLEARN
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Potential VR Projects to Help Veterans at High Risk for Mental Health Challenges

By: Brian Stevenson, Associate Director | SimLEARN’s EHTI

Kim Bielicki, Innovation Specialist | Orlando VA Healthcare System (OVAHCS)

Bari Hoffman, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs, Professor | University of Central Florida’s College of Health Professions and Sciences, Orlando, FL 

Carolina Cruz-Neira, Ph.D., Agere Chair Professor, Director | University of Central Florida’s Virtual and Augmented Reality Applications Lab (VARLAB), Orlando, FL 

Dirk Reiners, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Co-Director | University of Central Florida’s Virtual and Augmented Reality Applications Lab (VARLAB), Orlando, FL 


(Left: Stephanie J. Sinnett, Dietitian, Nutrition & Food Service, OVAHCS 
Center: Cheryl Cooper, MSN, PMHNP-BC, PMH-C and Director, OVAHCS MH APRN Pilot Traineeship Program 
Right: Kim Bielicki, Innovation Specialist, OVAHCS) 
Photograph by Dr. Bari Hoffman


During the week of January 3
, 2022, SimLEARN’s Emerging Healthcare Technology Integration (EHTI) program, the Veteran Health Administration (VHA) Extended Reality (XR) Network, Orlando VA Healthcare System’s (OVAHCS) Innovation Program and the University of Central Florida’s College of Health Professions and Sciences met for a physical and virtual tour of UCF’s XR capabilities, projects, and partnerships. 

At the end of the tour, representatives from all three entities met to debrief and align the potential for partnership leveraging the VHA Innovation Ecosystem and SimLEARN’s Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) authority to collaborate on the following through the course of fiscal year 2022:

  1. Holoportation simulation experiences (PORTL technology) that allows for ‘live-beam’ or pre-recorded holographic content to be shared with audiences at life-sized scale with high-def resolution that feels true to life to best support learning. QR codes are embedded in content for students to assess learning with a posttest about what they “saw” via hologram in real time.
  2. A Virtual Reality (VR) application that seeks to build a library of mental health simulation scenarios that can be used for 3D training on computers, to be presented using glasses-free (autostereoscopic) or room-scale (CAVE) immersive display systems.
  3. N-Real Virtual or Pico Neo Pro 3 Reality Glasses, which offer a lean set of goggles that can be loaded with a library of VR scenarios and do not need a Wi-Fi connection to run.
  4. A VR Cadaver that is ideal for simulation and serves as a potential market disruptor, where simulation manikins are concerned. The capability leverages 2 or 4 TV screens, optionally combined with VR headsets, to work on virtual cadavers for anatomy training and education with real time scenarios and outcomes.   













“The PORTL Hologram Solution at UCF is just one of the many emerging healthcare technologies that the SimLEARN NSC, OVAHCS’ Innovation Program, and UCF will be partnering around to advance cross collaboration among Lake Nona Medical City institutions.”

Left: “Son” Colin David 
Right: “Mother” Kelly David 
Photograph by Nicholas Leyva, UCF Photographer.    

Bari Hoffman, Ph.D., CCC-SLP Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs, Professor; Carolina Cruz-Neira, Ph.D., VARLAB Director, Agere Chair Professor, Computer Sciences at UCF and Dirk Reiners, Ph.D., VARLAB Co-Director, Associate Professor, Computer Sciences at UCF were our tour guides.  OVAHCS Innovation Specialists (IS), Kim Bielicki, Stephanie Sinnett, Dietician, and Cheryl Cooper, APRN, OVAHCS were able to attend in person. The ultimate desire is for close collaboration among OVHACS, SimLEARN, and UCF – all strategically positioned within Orlando, Florida’s Lake Nona Medical City – on the VR projects that could potentially have life-changing impacts on Veterans who are who are facing mental health challenges.