The Porterhouse Medical Award for Innovation in Healthcare Communications

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Experiencing MS First Hand: Virtual Reality Glove Experience

by Weber Shandwick for Roche

Summary of work

Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects 2.3 million people globally,1and impacts people’s cognition, vision and, importantly, mobility.

Maintaining upper limb (hands and arms) function is essential for patients to live an independent lifestyle,2especially those with MS who later in life need to use a wheelchair. However, before being in a wheelchair, not all MS symptoms are visible to others, which means people with MS can struggle to explain what it really feels like to live with the disease. These hidden symptoms can be misunderstood or unacknowledged by people who don’t live with the condition.

Therefore rather than ‘talking at’ the community or adding to the wealth of existing disease information, we chose to put the MS community at the heart of the initiative, and created an interactive experience with a person living with the condition.

The use of virtual reality is known to be highly persuasive for understanding behaviour,3,4therefore to reflect the needs of the MS community we chose to use this technology alongside haptic feedback (another sensory experience) to create a bespoke interactive activity, that brought to life how MS symptoms can manifest in upper limbs. Users were then able to, for the first time, truly experience the challenges of hidden MS symptoms.


  1. ultiple Sclerosis International Federation. Atlas of MS 2013: mapping multiple sclerosis around the world. Multiple Sclerosis International Federation, 2013.
  2. Dubuisson N, et al. Importance of upper limb function in advanced MS: a web-survey analysis.
  3. Kim K, et al. Effects of virtual environment platforms on emotional responses. Comp Meth Prog Bio, 2014; 113: 882-893.
  4. Chittaro L, Zangrando N. The Persuasive Power of Virtual Reality: Effects of Simulated Human Distress on Attitudes towards Fire Safety. Persuasive Technology, 2010; 6137: 58-69.

Judges’ comments

This was an excellent use of virtual reality because of the haptic element of the glove experience.  It meant that people using the VR really got to physically feel the different stages of MS and their impact on an individual trying to carry out day to day tasks.  This was an excellent example of not just using virtual reality for the sake of it, it stimulated an emotional and empathetic understanding of MS.