VANCOUVER - A Vancouver-based company is using virtual reality to help make vaccines a little less scary for children. The idea is to distract the brain with a video, so the focus isn't on the pain, or the needle.

It’s a concept developed by Naomi Van Halteren, a registered nurse who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Unable to keep up with her 12-hour shifts, she moved into immunizations.

“I became an immunization nurse full time when I moved to Vancouver and was shocked at the number of adults that couldn’t handle getting a flu shot or a vaccine,” Van Halteren said. “My husband came home one day with VR and I was looking for a distraction tool. I was flabbergasted by how much it took me out of where I was.”

She reached out to a tech developer in Vancouver and came up with a video to play through a VR headset. In order to stop children flinching, they can see something touching their arm; a snowflake to replicate the cold feeling of the alcohol swab, then a “moon rock” for the vaccine itself.

“The more input you have in your brain, the less you can focus on the pain,” Van Halteren said.

The technology is ready to go now and Van Halteren is speaking with private doctors about getting it into clinics. She’s also offering a free two-month trial, and she has plans for needle-shy adults as well.

“We developed two adult versions that will take a bit of time, but we’re getting them going,” Van Halteren said.

Luna VR is one of dozens of companies showing off their latest developments at the VRAR summit being held in Vancouver this weekend.

Also there was Burnaby-based Volumetric Camera Systems, which uses a high-tech camera to create 3D images used in both the film and medical industries.

“We can scan the film set and then before they shoot the movie for real, they shoot it virtually,” said Founder Tobias Chen. “Another one of our use cases is using these cameras inside of surgery rooms where you can mount the camera up on the operating theatre and record the surgery. If you’re recoding the entire hologram of the surgery you can walk around it and see the surgeries from different perspectives, pause it, blow things up bigger.”

Vancouver is the world’s second-largest hub for VR and AR, behind Silicon Valley. In the last three years the local industry has grown from 15 companies to 230.