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WVU instructor works to advance AR/VR technology in healthcare

AR/VR technology

Kristi Hansen Onkka wants to inform healthcare professionals about AR/VR for use in their practices. 

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An “ah-ha” moment for West Virginia University Reed College of Media Integrated Marketing Communications instructor Kristi Hansen Onkka has led to a website that informs healthcare professionals how they can use augmented or virtual reality to improve or even save lives.

With more than 20 years of marketing and advertising agency experience, developing innovative digital media solutions has always been Onkka’s focus. But the application of AR/VR in healthcare has recently become her passion. 

“I would go to different AR/VR tradeshows that weren’t based on healthcare, but on the technology, and at one of these, I came across a booth where they had developed a device to cure crossed eyes in children,” Onkka explained. “Right then, I realized this wasn’t just a platform for telling a story. It’s a platform that is actually a treatment.” 

She left her job at precisioneffect and branched out on her own as in independent healthcare marketing consultant. After researching the potential impacts of AR/VR on healthcare, she realized there was no single website devoted exclusively to gathering and organizing this information. Undaunted, she decided to do it herself.

Onkka launched in October 2016 as a resource for AR/VR app developers and healthcare professionals.  

“It is the only place that is solely dedicated to healthcare virtual reality and augmented reality content,” Onkka said. “The information is out there in other places, but other sites cover a broad spectrum of industries. I really wanted to niche my expertise and my passion into healthcare.”  

Onkka says, more and more companies are now developing AR/VR apps for use in the medical field, but their good intentions could be lost without someone to help connect them with the medical professionals and patients who may use their products. 

“What I really wanted to do was learn what healthcare providers need and provide those solutions,” Onkka said. “A lot of developers have an idea, they want to help people, but they don’t understand the nuances of getting a physician to adopt and use the technology. There is generally a low awareness but a big curiosity.” 

In addition to her consulting work, Onkka also is sharing her expertise in AR/VR with students in the WVU Reed College of Media.  She recently developed and taught the new course, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in IMC, for the IMC master's degree program.  The course examines how brands are currently using these platforms to expand customer interaction and build brand affinity. Students are tasked with developing campaigns for chosen clients and give suggestions on how to incorporate AR/VR experiences into their current integrated marketing efforts.



CONTACT: Allyson Kennedy, Reed College of Media

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