Virtual Reality and Ugly Lies the Bone

Posted on: August 12th, 2015 by Jill Rafson

How can you put yourself in the shoes of a person experiencing pain? The answer comes in the form of a simple bucket of ice.

On July 27, members of the cast and creative team for Roundabout Underground’s Ugly Lies the Bone gathered in a rehearsal hall to learn about the ways in which Virtual Reality technology can be used as pain therapy. Howard Rose, Founder and CEO of DeepStream VR, led the group in a discussion of how this technology has developed from something used by gamers for simple entertainment to a scientifically-proven aid in alleviating both chronic pain and the severe pain suffered during wound treatment for burn victims.


Mamie Gummer

Actress Mamie Gummer, who plays Jess in "Ugly Lies the Bone".


In Ugly Lies the Bone, soldier Jess was burned over much of her body, and she immerses herself in the snowy landscape of a virtual world to find relief. This aspect of the plot comes directly from the actual Virtual Reality game “SnowWorld” and its newer offshoot, “Cool.”

It would be one thing to simply put on goggles and play these games, but Rose wanted the artists to understand how pain feels on its own and how differently we react to pain when distracted by something like these games. To demonstrate, volunteers were timed while immersing one hand in a bucket of ice water. The hand was kept in for as long as they could tolerate the pain. Once removed, they were warmed up with a towel and heating lamp. Most of the artist volunteers lasted about one minute in the bucket.


Costume Designer, Dede Ayite and "Cool" interface.

The experiment was then tried again, but this time while fully immersed in the world of “Cool,” in which the player hears gentle music while moving through a pleasant landscape in which they toss paintballs at animated otters that change color in response. With the added distraction of the game, volunteers were able to keep their hands in the same bucket of ice much longer. For most, it was about three times longer that the pain could be tolerated, which Rose confirmed as on par with previous demonstrations.

Howard Rose and Mamie Gummer.

Howard Rose and Mamie Gummer.

The actors, director, and designers all walked away from the experience with a first-hand understanding of how Virtual Reality can impact the life of a person in pain, valuable information that will now inform their work in bringing Ugly Lies the Bone to the stage.

Ugly Lies the Bone begins previews September 10 at our Black Box Theatre. All tickets to Roundabout Underground are general admission for only $25. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2015-2016 Season, Ugly Lies the Bone

  1. Kerry Jewel

    August 25, 2015

    Wow amazing concept, its exciting to read that such kinds of effects are becoming a reality, really unbelievable. Hats off to the team well done great effort.

  2. Interview with Director: Patricia McGregor - Roundabout Theatre Company Official Blog

    August 25, 2015

    […] of the great things is, we’re going to have the opportunity to use the SnowWorld technology and experience it for ourselves.  I’m really excited to be able to figure out how to take the audience on that journey. I think […]



Thank you for your comment. Please note that our comments are moderated and do not appear immediately.