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Macon native creates virtual reality experience for hospice patients

In the months before graduation, Richon Watson spent his time creating virtual reality for a good cause

MACON, Ga. — At the Savannah College of Art & Design, Macon native Richon Watson spent his final quarter creating virtual reality experiences for a good cause.

Watson and fellow classmates with SCAD's VR for Good initiative constructed three immersive programs for patients at Hospice Savannah.

With their VR headsets, patients explored the ocean floor, rode hot air balloons, and spent calm days at a farm.

"I just want people to have a better experience with life because of something I created," says Watson. "I think it's even more important that we give them the ability to feel like their alive and that they're living."

The virtual reality experiences provide patients with both physical and emotional therapy.

"If you're able to watch somebody picnic and be outside when they haven't explored or done anything like that in months or years, you can't describe with words what they experience on their face and in their heart," says Hospice Savannah CEO and president Kathleen Benton.

SCAD students spent over nine weeks creating immersive programs from scratch and COVID-19 made the process a little more difficult.

The class kept in contact virtually, meeting through Zoom to make sure each program was complete. Watson says the distance pushed the group to work even harder.

"Just seeing everything go from nothing to something someone can experience and thinking about how that's going to make somebody's life better is really exciting," says Watson.

Since he was a child, Watson has loved the escapism that comes along with video games.

Now that he is making his own, he's ready to continue creating immersive virtual experiences that help others.

"There's always this idea that you have to be a doctor or an engineer to make some big change," says Watson. "But knowing that you can be an artist... you can be a game designer. Whatever you want to be, you can find some way to help people with that and integrate that into something big."

This spring, Watson graduated from the Savannah College of Art & Design with a degree in Interactive Design and Game Development.

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