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05 April 2023 Blog Interview

Mads Lopes: "Technology must provide value for people"

<p>Mads Lopes, Khora<br />Portrætserie</p>

In Formpipe's new portrait series "With the digital society of the future in mind," we meet inspiring figures from different industries who all have a clear attitude towards the digital society of the future. In the first article, we meet Techno-Anthropologist and Chief Product Officer at the award-winning Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) company, Khora, Mads Lopes.

Entertainment, 3D experiences, and gaming are probably the words most Danes would use to explain what VR is. But the truth is that today, VR technology offers much more than that. In recent years, VR technology has exploded, and so have the possibilities:

"We can do things today that you couldn't do before. We can give people experiences!" says Mads Lopes. Even though his CV bears witness to many years of geeking out with technology, it has always been with one primary purpose in mind - technology must make a difference for people. And that opportunity is now available with VR:

"We can take people to a foreign country or put them in situations that they find difficult, like taking the bus. It's only limited by your imagination," he says.

(Khora presspackage)

And hold on to the imagination that Mads talks about. You'll need it when you look at the projects Khora is involved in because it may not be easy to figure out how VR and AR can make a difference for new mothers with postpartum depression, paramedics, or schizophrenics.

But it does.

Together with the Capital Region of Denmark's Psychiatry, Khora is currently testing whether it is possible to screen future mothers for their propensity to develop postpartum depression. They do this via a VR headset, where the mother-to-be is measured on how she reacts to a baby's different emotions. If the screening shows that the mother-to-be is at risk of developing postpartum depression, they have developed a preventive intervention that - through therapy and VR - will give them the necessary tools to keep depression at bay - to the great benefit of both relatives, mother, and baby.

(Khora presspackage)

Educators at Ambulance of South also benefit from the possibilities of VR because it can be difficult to prepare paramedics in training for the unpredictability of reality solely through books and movies. Therefore, the Ambulance of South wanted to develop the rescuers' skills in conflict management by giving them the opportunity to actually stand in a real situation - and by using VR, the rescuers got exactly the training in unpredictability that is so crucial to save lives when it really matters.

And for the last example, try to imagine that for years you've been plagued by vicious voices in your head. Voices that tell you several times a day how stupid, ugly, and useless you are. Voices that speak over reality and make it impossible for you to have a normal conversation with another human being, keeping you trapped physically and psychologically without the ability to respond - until now. Khora has, together with the Capital Region of Denmark's Psychiatry, developed a form of therapy to help people suffering from auditory hallucinations. By personalizing the malicious voices with VR, the schizophrenic has the opportunity to respond and oppose the voices' obnoxiousness and thus regain control.


Pandora's box has been opened

The list of people who have had or will have their lives changed for the better by VR is much longer than these examples. What they all have in common is that the maturity of the technology means that the technology takes a back seat, and it's the real difference these people experience that matters most. And it's crucial that the order remains that way for future projects:

"VR is an incredibly powerful tool, so it's important that we use it responsibly. The amazing possibilities need to be balanced with critical and ethical thinking before new technologies are rolled out", he says.

(IMPULS 2022, Jonas Krøner)

All of Khora's health-related projects are conducted under the auspices of research, with ethics committee approval and years of data collection and analysis - even if it often means that technology overtakes them before the study is complete. But it's a necessary evil to keep people at the center, Mads believes:

"It is important that we stop and continuously ask ourselves why we are doing this. Is this project a necessity, and should we do it if it doesn't provide value for the majority of people?", he says.

In the future, we meet in the metaverse

Although Corona made the possibility of online meetings from home much more accessible, one thing was very clear - that they took place from home. That won't be the case in the future, Mads believes. The union of VR, AR and AI will soon enable an integrated network of 3D virtual worlds that you can access with a VR headset.

Using eye movements, so-called feedback controllers and voice control, you get the feeling of being physically present in the world shown by the VR headset. And according to Mads, this development brings new opportunities:

"Let's take online therapy rooms as an example: lonely people can interact with other people and practice social skills in a safe space," he explains.

(Khora presspackage)

For example, Khora worked with the Association for Children with Anxiety, where the technology helped them facilitate play and games in a safe forum. As a result, one in five children were moved back to school. And it wasn't the many technological solutions that Mads highlights from that experience. There is one thing in particular that Mads remembers from that project:

"It was hugely rewarding for me to see that boy's development. As part of his way back to school, he actually visited Khora as an intern and helped with small tasks. It's examples like this that make me happy to go to work every day!", he emphasizes.

Have you also been completely bitten by Khora and the entire VR universe after reading this article? Then you can jump onto their website and see what else they have going on with valuable and exciting projects right here.