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.
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.
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.