Hunter Hoffman is the Director of the Virtual Reality Research Center at the Human Photonics Lab at the University of Washington Dept of Mechanical Engineering in Seattle and he is affiliate faculty in the University of Washington Depts of Radiology and UW Dept of Psychology. He also collaborates with researchers in UW departments of Radiology, Psychology, Rehabilitation Medicine, Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, and Anesthesiology.
Since 1993, Hoffman has developed 1) Virtual Reality Monitoring world, 2) SpiderWorld (for treating spider phobia), 3) World Trade Center World, an immersive virtual reality simulation of the 9/11 attacks for treating civilian PTSD with VR exposure therapy, 4) SnowWorld, the first VR world designed for treating pain, 5) VR DBT Mindfulness Skills learning World (in collaboration with Marsha M. Linehan et al).
Regarding VR hardware design, Hoffman was lead designer of the “Magula arm”, a robot-like goggle holder that holds the VR goggles near the patients’ eyes (for burn patients who cannot wear a VR helmet). Hoffman and Magula and Seibel also developed the first wide field of view (fiberoptic) VR goggles for fMRI brain scans, and also water-friendly VR goggles for burn patients in the tubroom (burn wound cleaning bathtub).
In 1997, Hoffman and clinical researcher David Patterson originated the technique of using immersive virtual reality for pain distraction during painful medical procedures, at Harborview Burn Center in Seattle. Hoffman, Patterson, and Walter Meyer MD have recently conducted joint research using VR distraction to reduce pain in children with unusually large severe burn wound injuries at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston Texas. Hoffman is also collaborating with researchers at the University of Montreal, using VR distraction to reduce the pain of young children (average age 2 years old) during burn wound care.
SnowWorld went on a one year exhibit tour at the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Museum of Design Triennial in Manhattan, and the Boston Museum of Contemporary Art. Hoffman was identified by FastCompany.com as one of the Fast 50 people most likely to influence the next 10 years.