Recently, the National MS Society partnered with Luma Pictures – a major hollywood digital effects studio – to create custom VR experiences for two individuals living with Multiple Sclerosis. These two people, one man and one woman, had both been passionate about a certain physical activity (dancing and surfing respectively) before contracting the auto-immune disorder.
MS causes the body’s immune system to attack the protective myelin sheaths that keep the brain’s electrical signals contained within the nervous system (think the rubber covering of a wire). This affects different people in different ways, but in the most extreme cases – such as those of the two patients mentioned above – it can severely inhibit the mobility of its sufferers to the level of borderline quadriplegia.
The National MS Society is the nation’s premier nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness, and funding the search for a cure, when it comes to Multiple Sclerosis. Recognizing that VR techonlogy could be of a huge benefit to people living with the disease, the society reached out to Luma pictures to create VR experiences designed to give this dancer and surfer the chance to once again live out their passions from inside an HMD.
Both of these 360 video experiences were created as part of the MS Society’s #wearestrongerThanMS campaign with Luma Pictures providing the expertise.
Justin Johnson, a digital effects supervisor at Luma, spoke briefly with UploadVR and detailed exactly how his company was able to create these unique and powerful films.
“For the surfing one we had a friend of the individual with MS, who is also a pro longboard rider, go out to Malibu. We mounted a 6 camera GoPro rig on a camera that we had him wear while he surfed. We then Stitched that together and stabilized the footage so its viewable without getting sick.”
Johnson says that the process for the ballerina experience was almost exactly the same – a friend of the afflicted individual wore a specialized rig while she danced and the footage was then stitched and stabilized by Luma Pictures.
The reactions of the two individuals is being withheld in the interest of protecting their privacy, but Johnson says that when they experienced the final products both were, “Really excited and truly happy. They thought it was just amazing.”
Luma mostly does feature film work for big name studios like Marvel. One example of their most recent work is the popular “Hulk v. Ant-Man” coke commercial that aired during Super Bowl 50.
Johnson believes that visual effects, and VR specifically, can have great impacts in the world of medicine and rehabilitation.
“In our experience at the company…We think [VR] has huge potential to be used in the medical industry. It can be used to help treat all kinds of disorders.”
Johnson indicated that Luma may be continuing to create more, similarly helpful, VR experiences but he was unable to say exactly what those are at this time.
“We’re exploring a lot of future possibilities for making this something that we are a part of but I cant really say exactly what we’re working on right now,” Johnson said.