Some elderly or depressed people may have problems with short-term memory, working memory, planning and execution or mental flexibility. The EXTENT project, initiated as part of Ouest Industries Créatives’ international strategy (in partnership with Hanyang University, Seoul), focuses on the exploration of immersive technologies to help diagnose problems in patients’ executive functions.
Yannick Prié, co-leader of the project with Toinon Vigier, at LS2N, the digital sciences laboratory of the University of Nantes, explains that classic diagnostic tests already exist but are often linked to abstract tasks.
Using virtual and immersive technologies allows the creation of concrete environments, where the patient will use all parts of his body, be active, leading to an embodied diagnosis.
It is then possible to measure gaze, movements, postures as well as the success of tasks (time taken compared to the number of errors); all valuable data for the teams of the Nantes University Hospital, a partner in the project.
An international partnership with Korea
As part of the international strategy of Ouest Industries Créatives, a partnership has been set up between the University of Nantes and Hanyang University in Seoul. This partnership concerns various projects, including EXTENT. On this occasion, 7 Korean students came to work in France for a year (2019-2020), on virtual environments, supervised by Yannick Prié and Toinon Vigier.
OIC is also financing an 18-month post-doctorate, starting in May 2021. The missions: to test healthy subjects in different virtual environments, in France and in Korea, in order to determine to what extent intercultural differences influence the environments or the results.
Towards the industrialisation of the process
In parallel with the tests carried out on healthy subjects, three priority environments will be studied on patients at the University Hospital (tests carried out by Samuel BULTEAU of the INSERM SPHERE research team, attached to the University of Nantes). The University of Nantes and the Nantes University Hospital are working hand in hand to industrialise the process, in particular by seeking industrial partnerships.
A project like EXTENT would allow patients to carry out regular tests of their executive functions from their living room.