Far beyond gaming, the vast potential of VR is inspiring innovators from a wide range of sectors.
In healthcare, researchers are constantly discovering new applications for VR in everything from pain management to surgical training. Here’s a roundup of startups and hospitals that are leading the way:
Medical Realities: Surgical Training
Access to hands-on operating room training for surgeons has decreased in the past decade, potentially leaving gaps in medical students’ training. Medical Realities, a London-based startup, is filling this gap through simulation, by using a proprietary training regimen called Virtual Surgeon, and using VR headsets that give surgical trainees a 360-degree view of procedures.
Currently bootstrapped, Medical Realities will be expanding its filming access to 10 surgeries a month, giving wider access to the simulations to medical students at universities and hospitals around London.
Cedars-Sinai and Shriners Hospital: Pain Management
When it comes to pain management, VR is an attractive option over pain medication. Meds can cause patients to build a tolerance over time, and may also lead to addiction: VR is free of these consequences.
Hospitals such as Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and the Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston, Texas have been working with startups like AppliedVR and DeepStream VR to experiment with VR as a pain management tool, immersing patients in games and simulations designed to dampen pain processing and calm the nervous system.
Rush University Medical Center’s Road Home Program: PTSD
At Rush University Medical Center’s Road Home Program in Chicago, social workers are using VR as part of a treatment program for veterans to overcome the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Using a $40,000 VR setup, patients are exposed to the sounds, sights, sensations and smells of the events that trigger their trauma in a safe, controlled setting, allowing them to retrain their brains to overcome fear.
The treatment is just one part of a holistic approach the center takes to help, not only servicemen and women but their families, to overcome the lasting effects of emotional and psychological issues.