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All posts by Marijke Sjollema

patient watches wild dolphins in virtual reality during medical procedure

The Wall Street Journal on Medical VR and virtually swimming with Wild Dolphins

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We are delighted to share this article published in the Wall Street Journal on the exciting possibilities of Virtual Reality within healthcare. And of course we’re proud that the VR experience of the Dolphin Swim Club is featured, and with a short demo on the online version all readers get to meet the wild dolphins! As well as a video of a young patient experiencing dolphin magic to help ease the pain.

Read Full Article on WSJ  Read Full Article on PDF



The Dolphin Swim Club featured in an article on medical VR in leading Dutch newspaper NRC

Featured in the NRC, a leading Dutch newspaper: Swimming with dolphins in the hospital to relieve pain

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VR nowadays gets used more often for medical purposes. An example of one of these uses is to relieve pain. Due to the immersive power of virtual reality, patients may experience less pain. This may cause less use of medication and thus improve patient well-being. And of course, a drug-free medicine has no environmental impact! Which is great news for our Wild Dolphin friends. We are excited that NRC once again mentioned us in this article about the use of VR in the medical world.

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Update 9 | The Blue Whales

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September 15th 2016… Off the coast of Dana Point, California. Meeting for the first time, the incredible amazing Blue Whale. Bigger than any creature ever lived on our planet. A Gentle Giant, we are in awe…



Just a little part of the whale is visible above the surface, here you can see the two blowholes, as all baleen whales have. They can be up to 33 meters, the whale that we met was a young whale and not that long yet.


Exhaling many meters high


About to dive under


And then these beautiful inspiring words;




The biggest heart in the world is inside the blue whale. It weighs more than seven tons.

It’s as big as a room. It is a room, with four chambers. A child could walk around in it, head high,

bending only to step through the valves. The valves are as big as the swinging doors in a saloon.

This house of a heart drives a creature a hundred feet long. When this creature is born it is twenty

feet long and weighs four tons. It is waaaaay bigger than your car. It drinks a hundred gallons

of milk from its mama every day and gains two hundred pounds a day, and when it is seven

or eight years old it endures an unimaginable puberty and then it essentially disappears from

human ken, for next to nothing is known of the mating habits, travel patterns, diet, social life,

language, social structure, diseases, spirituality, wars, stories, despairs, and arts of the blue whale.

There are perhaps ten thousand blue whales in the world, living in every ocean on earth, and of

the largest mammal who ever lived we know nearly nothing. But we know this: the animals

with the largest hearts in the world generally travel in pairs, and their penetrating moaning cries,

their piercing yearning tongue, can be heard underwater for miles and miles.

Mammals and birds have hearts with four chambers. Reptiles and turtles have hearts with

three chambers. Fish have hearts with two chambers. Insects and mollusks have hearts with

one chamber. Worms have hearts with one chamber, although they may have as many as

eleven single-chambered hearts. Unicellular bacteria have no hearts at all; but even they have

fluid eternally in motion, washing from one side of the cell to the other, swirling and whirling.

No living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside.

So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment.

We are utterly open with no one, in the end — not mother and father, not wife or husband,

not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of

the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly

harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain

us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised

and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile

and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to

the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as

you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s

apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words “I have something to tell you,” a cat with a

broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand

in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from

the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.


Reprinted from The American Scholar, Volume 73, No. 4, Autumn 2004.

Copyright © 2004 by the author.


Update 8 | Californian Diary

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Californian Diary


So we were in California, invited by professor Skip Rizzo to present the Dolphin Swim Club at the ICDVRat, a coming together of Virtual Reality pioneers, medical scientists, as well as artists, dedicated to help people within the field of healthcare with the aid of science and technology, all in the City of Angels. Someone stated about the question; Does Virtual Reality work for patients in healthcare? To compare it with this question; does a syringe help? The answer was that it really depends what you put in it. Content is queen. For an artist this is of course great inspiration!

However, before spending some days in LA, since we were already in the area , we hung out on the Pacific Ocean, to see if we could meet up with cetacean friends in the rich coastal waters. Out in the harbor town Dana Point we went out with a whale-watching catamaran, and we had the great honor to meet for the first time, the magnificent Blue Whale. The greatest creature ever lived on our planet, ever… (That will be a separate blog next, with some cool pictures, I promise). As well as, Californian Sea-Lions, Mola-Mola, Short-beaked Common Dolphins, Long-beaked Common Dolphins, Coastal Bottle-nose Dolphins, Sea-otters, Pelicans, Elephant Seals, Humming Birds, All kinds of other birds, Rizzo’s Dolphins, (perhaps in honor of our host professor Skip Rizzo), Porpoises and Humpback Whales.



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Captain Dave, the owner of the whale-watching operation introduced us to his friend Barry Curtis. Both are members of a whale rescue team trying to set free sea life entangled in fishing nets. Barry invited us to join him on his boat the next morning. The mission was to try and find an entangled humpback whale, spotted the day before. On a beautiful sunny, windless September morning we set out from Dana Point to see if we could find the humpback in trouble, and ‘babysit’, keep score of it’s position till further rescue efforts could arrive. Although the conditions were perfect we never found the whale.

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Barry’s companion is a very special dog, his name is Otter (the dolphin dog) and he is if possible even more passionate about dolphins than we are. So when we couldn’t find the whale, at some point Otter became restless and yes, there they were, lots and lots of Short-beaked Common Dolphins all around in a ‘stampede’. Yes Barry, it’s a wonderful world indeed.

The only thing weighing down this magical day was the thought of the poor humpback soul out there in trouble somewhere. Until a few days later when the news arrived that the whale managed to free itself!!

A very happy ending indeed. So to all our new friends from California, whether Cetacean, Canine or Human, wishing you save travels and free passage to wherever your dreams may lead you.


11 juni 2016 Selfi&Delfi Nyborg - 21 van 21

Update 7 | A wonderful meet-up in Denmark

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Ever since we started, with the Dolphin Swim Club VR experience, on behalf, or perhaps even requested by the dolphins, our lives have been filled with adventures and sea creatures of all kinds. As well as people with a big heart for the sea, or even simply a heart as big as the ocean.


Friday afternoon, June 10th, spend in the studio of Jewelbox with owner Pepijn Buitenhuis, working on the last bits of the sound design, with only the natural recorded cetacean voices for the 15-minute healing VR version. So now the dolphins are ready to swim into people’s lives and do their thing!

And they are. The medical research on the healing effects of wild dolphins, done by UMCG (Groningen University) has started, as well as they are joining the VR programs in several hospitals and healthcare facilities around Europe and USA. (Cancer Society Oslo, Norway, ‘sHeeren Loo, the Netherlands, UMCG Groningen, the Netherlands, University of Southern California, USA) just to name a few.

Friday evening, after a lovely dinner with Michelle Broens, owner of Praktijk Broens who also started working with the dolphins with her patients, and is planning a program for refugees with us. We set of for a 500 km drive into Denmark, to look for our ‘Ambassador’ dolphins Selfi & Delfi. You can find the the whole magical story about them on our previous posts. The next morning we set out to search for our friends, and found them! Under a bridge like clochards in Nyborg, Denmark. Such a happy reunion it was.We even met up with our friends Ann-Sofi and Clifford whom we met last autumn when Selfi & Delfi were visiting the Kalmarsund…

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Safe travels my dear friends.

Save travels to all sentient beings out there in the waters and on the land.

‘the Reunion’  Meet Selfi & Delfi in their underwater home.


Update 6 | The Dolphins introduce us to wonderful people

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A lot has happened since we got back from the shoot in Egypt. The whole team got busy with first of all the post-production, the website, and meeting wonderful people, pioneers in the world of 360°Virtual Reality, people within healthcare, medical research, animal welfare, research and rescue, environment, education, marketing, the cultural field and journalism. By itself it is great joy to meet all these people passionate to ‘make the world a better place’, by doing what they love. So, here’s the follow-up story with a very grateful heart, to all beings involved and especially the cetaceans of course:

Founder Marijke Sjollema in the talkshow Bynt

Founder Marijke Sjollema in the talkshow Bynt


producer B.Brada and founder M.Sjollema presenting at the Water Alliance

The Embassy of the Cetacean ImagiNation, a non-profit start-up presents: ‘the Dolphin Swim Club’ a healing 360°VR experience. This project is foremost about sharing the joy, playful spirit and beauty of wild dolphins in their home; the free oceans of the world. To meet a dolphin or a whale under water and look into their eye is perhaps one of the most amazing encounters one can have on this planet. It is our dream to share this experience through 360°VR, and so inspire a love for the oceans and all it’s inhabitants.

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The stress reducing and even healing effect (British Medical Journal 2005) from meeting especially dolphins is widely known. All throughout history there are many stories and legends account for just that. In modern medicine these seemingly magical qualities of cetaceans are used in so called; ‘Dolphin assisted therapy’. Unfortunately the facilities offering these programs are keeping dolphins in captivity. Today we know so much more about the amazing intelligence, language and complex societies of cetaceans, that this is clearly a highly undesirable situation. It leads to drastically shortened lives and endless suffering.

So we thought: ‘Lets make a great alternative’, and we did! In 360°Virtual Reality.

Off course wanting to film wild dolphins in the free oceans, does require an element of luck, besides working with the best crew, best location, we made sure that all circumstances were as perfect as possible for the shoot, the dolphins must want to be there. And they did, they showed up and now we are able to have people experience through virtual reality pods of more than 90 spinner and bottlenose dolphins. That is more than we ever dreamt of…

Official medical research | In January 2016 both Dr. Wim Veling of the University Medical Centre Groningen and Professor Skip Rizzo of the University of Southern California decided to start an official medical research in the field of depression, psychoses and anxiety disorders (NL) and autism (USA) by using our VR experience.

360°VR preview | In April we have launched our 360° preview which is now available on our special player. Check out our new website and there you will find the player with the 360°VR preview, suitable for most smartphones! You can order VR Goggles to watch the dolphins with your own smartphone in 360°VR, and you may want to leave a donation to support our efforts, highly appreciated!

A healing 360°VR experience | Several health organizations in the Netherlands have pre-ordered the Dolphin Swim Club under water 360°VR dolphin footage. They want to open up the world of multiple disabled patients, or provide an opportunity to reduce stress within all kinds of healthcare.

The Dolphins start to find their way | Early in May, the Norwegian Cancer Society has decided to use our images for the treatment of patients, age 13 to19, who will undergo bone marrow transplants, in Oslo, to supply a beautiful distraction from life in an isolation room (5-6 weeks).  They want to explore practical implications and whether the use of VR can help children and young adults to cope better with the adverse effects of their treatments.

A ticket to the VRcinema instead of a dolphin show! | Starting May the 4th, our high quality 360°VR preview is shown in Europe’s first VRcinema’s both in Amsterdam and Berlin, for the ‘just fun’ part, as we love to share the joy of the dolphins with everybody. And we think it’s real cool that you can now buy a ticket to the VRmovies instead of a dolphin show!

Dolphins team up with Seals for a clean ocean | Beside the production of several VR-movies, and watching the dolphins find their way into healthcare and delighting viewers everywhere, we do have dreams left. We would love to make waterproof VR-goggles out of waste plastic, taken from the ocean. Because not only cetaceans but all ocean inhabitants would greatly benefit from a clean sea, we teamed up with a Seal Rescue Centre in the Netherlands (Zeehondencentrum Pieterburen) as they are running a program gathering abandoned fishing nets (ghost nets) and other plastics from the Waddenzee (North of The Netherlands). These debris are recycled into a special granulate.

The waterproof feature will even add another sense to the healing experience and would be very suitable for severely paralyzed patients.

As a non-profit start-up all revenues will flow back into the project for the funding of the research and the development of further under water experiences.

More info about the project on our website: www.thedolphinswimclub.com