Power of Swimming VR Simulation is a Saviour for Children Scared of Water

Posted on November 13, 2016


Swedish alliance creates virtual reality experience to tackle fear of water and improve swimming skills.


Several years ago I discovered a VR project aiming to help amputees cope with the pain and psychological problems caused by losing an arm. Medical researchers found that by just having the appearance of the missing limb in place, using VR graphics, the pain amputees felt from severed nerve endings was greatly diminished. In simple terms the phantom limb fooled the brain into thinking the arm was still attached.

It turned out that even simple simulations like having a mirror on one side of the body, projecting a reflected image of an arm, caused the same effect. There are now lots of medical projects investigating VR medical treatments and I’m convinced this is where VR will make its biggest social impact – real life simulation. In Stockholm that principle has been put to use with the ‘Power of Swimming’ – a VR simulation guided by members of the national swimming team.


Encouraging nervous children into the water

Created by the advertising agency M&C Saatchi in collaboration with the Swedish Swimming Federation, developers Apartment5 and energy company E.ON, Power of Swimming hopes to encourage nervous children into the water. Even in a country surrounded by sea and so well populated with lakes, one in five Swedish children cannot swim.

Non-swimmers often need a guiding hand to get their feet wet, so to inspire young people they are introduced to three of the Swedish swimming team and taken into a pool to swim virtually. They then met the same swimmers in a real pool to begin learning to swim in real life. Check out a video explaining the project below.

Psychologist Philip Lindner tells viewers: “Shorter exposure can help people experience fun things they’ve previously missed out on, and create motivation to change.The children’s response to the water has been completely changed by the VR experience. They say things like, ‘I was in the water in a second,’ ‘I think that’s what I want to do when I grow up,’ and ‘It feels good to be under water now’.”

Martin Cedergren, executive creative director and partner at M&C Saatchi Stockholm, said: “We really hope this initiative will positively change children’s swimming experiences and encourage them to feel confident enough to get in the water.”