With the country’s most widely used VR platform, Takeawalk helps children, young people, adults and the elderly in more than half of all Danish municipalities with both mental and physical challenges. For the company, the use of virtual reality must be easy and accessible if it is to create positive change in practice.
The article was produced in collaboration with TakeAWalk and is part of the magazine ‘XR: Virtual VRevolution, which you can read here.
Sometimes the path you’re walking on takes a turn that wasn’t otherwise on the map. And you end up somewhere completely different than you expected. The same can be said for Takeawalk, a company that started out using virtual reality technology in real estate, but quickly moved on to more meaningful pastures.
Today, the company provides a wide range of VR solutions in areas such as social care and healthcare to more than half of Denmark’s municipalities. It is largely care homes, residential homes, psychiatry, educational institutions and primary schools that use Takeawalk’s platform filled with over 600 self-produced video experiences and simulations in VR. It is also used for knowledge sharing among professionals about processes and outcomes. And Takeawalk has a dedicated VR editor, where staff and users can create their own course from all the available resources and other professionals’ notes.
“We started by making visualisations of properties and creating buildings that hadn’t been built yet in virtual reality. It became a nice business that ran well, but one question in particular kept coming up: How can we use technology to make a difference for real people?” Says Jesper Roy, founder and CEO of Takeawalk.
A new direction
That became the setting for a mantra that has defined the company ever since. Because unlike many other players in the same field, the mission is to democratise the use of virtual reality and create change for people in the real world.
“You can easily make solutions that are technically cutting-edge and advanced, but if professionals can’t use it in their concrete work with children, young people or the elderly, it doesn’t matter. That’s why we go to great lengths to make our product accessible and easy to use in practice. Because the virtual world is only interesting when it makes a difference in the physical world,” Roy explains.
The company’s approach is simple: technology only creates value when it can be used in practice. That’s why one of the VR company’s main tasks is to train staff to use the platform, so they can combine and organise content, programmes and experiences to suit individual needs. This also means that Takeawalk provides unlimited demonstrations of the equipment and always provides support – right up until staff feel comfortable with the solution.
“In one of our first pilot projects, we delivered three headsets to a care home along with instructions on how to use them. But when we came back three months later, they were just gathering dust in a corner. We soon realised that it doesn’t matter what the latest VR headset is if the professionals don’t feel equipped to use it.”
“Ever since, we’ve been keeping an eye on practice and making sure that our solutions fit into the reality of the municipality or region,” says Jesper Roy.
Today, the company works with full implementation and makes all resources available until the user is comfortable with the platform and equipment.
The technology is like nothing else
This idea is the guiding concept behind a number of projects that Takeawalk is behind in collaboration with several Danish municipalities in areas such as bullying, anxiety, loneliness and stress. The common denominator is often a focus on mental challenges, and a collaboration with Rudersdal Municipality in particular has aroused enthusiasm.
CEO and founder of Takeawalk, Jesper Roy
For many people suffering from anxiety or simple schizophrenia, the small tasks of everyday life represent big challenges. That’s why the VR exposure therapy company has developed a series of programmes that can increase independence and mitigate the negative effects. And it has produced positive results. For example, Nicolaj from Rudersdal, who suffers from both anxiety and agitation, has taken the bus for the first time in eight years after trying Takeawalk’s exposure programme with Take Care.
“I think it’s easy to become hostile to the unknown and when you’re suddenly in VR and driving a bus, you experience: Okay, this is what a driver does. Okay, this is how you do with tickets. The hell you’ve got painted on the wall, it’s not actually there in VR, so why would it be there in the real world?” He explains.
Whereas Nicolaj was previously plagued by the many unknowns, he has now become more confident in the transport situation through simulation. And that’s exactly what the technology can do, says Jesper Roy.
“We can also be exposed to things we are afraid of, together with both a professional or other like-minded people. There’s nothing like virtual reality to recreate emotions, force challenges to a safe distance and help people break free from them. It’s revolutionary,” says the Takeawalk founder.
Although the company already provides solutions to many municipalities and regions in the country, the ambition is to become the preferred VR provider in Scandinavia. This will be achieved through a more complete platform, where professionals can be more involved in developing and sharing content and knowledge with each other.
“The virtual reality field can be a jungle, but we have made sure that our platform is straightforward and easy to use. That’s what allows us to explore the technology with professionals and develop solutions that make a positive difference to people,” says Jesper Roy.
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