The University of Auckland

Project #80: VR Art Therapy for Dementia Patients – 3D Painting-by-numbers



Art has become a popular medium to help a range of patients by enabling them to be creative, expressing themselves, finding purpose, and facilitate social contacts. One interesting application of art therapy is for dementia patients. Previous research suggest that it can help patients’ well-being, although the exact mechanisms are not known yet. One theory is that it can help to reroute communication pathways (where patients have difficulty expressing themselves verbally) as well as help patients regaining their identity and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Unfortunately many patients are unable to engage in art therapy, since it involves physical equipment and usually a human facilitator and special meeting venues. In this project we aim to develop an intuitive simple-to-use VR/AR based tool for art therapy. In order to make it attractive to users who are not confident in their creative abilities we propose some type of guidance for the painting process, e.g. by using a 3D version of painting-by-numbers. In addition to that we are also interested in integrating physical and cognitive exercises in the painting tasks (e.g. by requiring users to reach out) in order to not only improve emotional well-being, but also address physical and cognitive health.


- Analysis of the current state-of-the-art of art therapy (with an emphasis on ART therapy for dementia and VR-based art therapy)

- Evaluating technologies, e.g. different VR head sets and controllers, for their suitability with dementia patients.

- Develop a 3D painting tool for VR art therapy – currently we favour a 3D version of painting-by-numbers, but are open to alternative ideas

- Evaluate the resulting tool with respect to usability (ease-of-use, precision, intuitiveness, enjoyment) and limitations.

- Applying for an ethics approval for the study mentioned above


Knowledge of computer graphics and/or AR/VR technologies is an advantage, but not required







Lab allocations have not been finalised