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A good number of people are familiar with the term ‘virtual reality’ but are not really informed about its uses. Gaming is what often comes to mind when virtual reality application as is discussed, but there is a whole platform of uses for virtual reality. Some of which are more challenging and/or unusual than others.

VR provides many more uses than first realized that range from academic and research through to engineering, design, business, the arts, and entertainment.

However, virtual reality produces a set of data which is then used to develop new models, communication, interaction and training methods irrespective of its use. In many ways, VR has endless possibilities.

The only stumbling blocks being costs, time coupled with technological limitations. Virtual reality systems are usually expensive and consume time in developing it. Plus there are ergonomics-related issues, specifically the need to designing user-friendly systems and systems unlikely to cause problems e.g. motion sickness.

But if these problems are countered, then there is an exciting, highly possible future for virtual reality.

Virtual Reality in Healthcare

Healthcare is one of the huge adopters of virtual reality, which entails surgery simulation, robotic surgery, phobia treatment, and skills training.

An advantage of this technology is that healthcare professionals are given the opportunity to learn new skills as well as refresh their existing ones in a safe environment. Moreover, it allows this without risking or causing harm to the patients.

  • Human simulation software

 

A good example of a simulation software is the HumanSim system which enables medical practitioners like doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to interact with their fellow counterparts in an interactive environment. There they can engage in training scenarios or drills in which they have to interact with a patient within a 3D environment. Surgeons can also project 3-D images of various organs in a bid to aid in locating the root problem. This is an immersive experience which aims to measure the participants’ emotions through a series of sensors.

  • Virtual reality diagnostics

 

Virtual reality has often been used as a diagnostic tool enabling doctors to arrive at a diagnosis in conjunction with other tools such as MRI scans. This overrules the need for invasive procedures or surgery, which may uncomfortable or detrimental to the patient.

  • Virtual robotic surgery

 

VR is gaining popularity in advanced robotics and particularly in robotic surgery. This is basically surgery performed by use of a robotic device, controlled by a surgeon, which often reduces time and complication risks.

Virtual reality has been also been employed in training and, in the field of remote telesurgery (surgery being performed by the surgeon at a separate location from the patient).

The main characteristic of this form is force feedback as the surgeon should be able to gauge the pressure amount required to use when performing a certain delicate procedure. But an issue has emerged of time delay or latency which is a serious concern in addition to being consequential. Any delay even a fraction of a second to the surgeon feels abnormal and may interrupt the procedure.

Robotic surgery and other issues relating to virtual reality and medicine can be found in the virtual reality and healthcare section. This section contains a list of individual articles which discuss virtual reality in surgery etc.

More Examples of VR use in Healthcare include;

  1. In Medicine
  2. Applications in dentistry
  3. Provides a platform for nursing and hospital care
  4. In specialized surgery, like eye surgery, brain surgery or neurosurgery
  5. Virtual reality uses in therapies
  6. Treatment of individual phobias i.e. arachnophobia and claustrophobia. Patients diagnosed with phobias can use VR to their advantage in managing these phobias on their own at their own pace.
  7. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment for patients experiencing such.
  8. In treatment for autism
  9. In health related issues like metabolism, VR can also be applied
  10. Virtual reality for the disabled, where they are taught how to cope up with the situation in the real world through a VR-type simulation, examples include voice activated software and virtual worlds have been developed with the objective of helping disabled persons adjust to the actual world by navigating themselves in the virtual world.
Aleksander Bordvik
(@ABordvik)