Virtual Reality: How Healthcare Will Enter the Void


Promising nothing short of a revolution, virtual reality is making its entrance in just about every industry you can think of. The influxes of VR devices into the consumer market are quickly providing new, exciting ways to optimize training, education, and research in many fields, especially healthcare.

With the world’s first virtual reality operation taking place in less than a week, the medical community continues to buzz with possible ways of integrating these new technologies.

Cutting Edge Technology; Decades Old

Surprisingly, surgery simulators have long been an invaluable resource for training and education, going back to the early days Morton Heilig’s Sensorama Simulator in 1965.

Since then, virtual reality has continually made headlines in the gaming world as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Google Cardboard tease the world with their release dates and growing software catalogs.

Although the hands on training of the operating room may never fully be digitized, companies developing visual simulation combined with force-feedback technology are not far off from the real thing. ImmersiveTouch allows surgeons to experience resistance of virtual instruments as well as responses from the patient.

Virtual Reality

As these technologies continue to saturate the tech-world, it’s likely that prices for VR devices will eventually drop, helping them enter a wider range of clinical settings. Apps like Touch Surgery allow traveling physicians to hone skills virtually on the road, ensuring the information stays at your fingertips.

Virtualized Clinics and Real People

One of the most successful applications of VR comes from the world of exposure therapy and PTSD treatment. By exposing patients to stimuli at a gradual rate, clinicians can help their patients learn to control and better monitor their responses. Bravemind is a program developed by the USC Institute for Creative Technologies to help soldiers de-condition and process their emotions by reentering virtual combat scenarios.

Other companies like Deepstream VR are working to create fun, comfortable environments used to distract from intense or chronic pain, helping people learn to manage their conditions.

A Spectrum of Experiences

Development and research is booming in areas of social cognition, providing opportunities for people with disabilities to digitally build the skills they need to interact with real people and places.

The ability to generate virtual job interviews, blind dates, and other social interactions could give children and adults with Autism the edge they need to develop their interpersonal skills, while providing valuable insight on the disorder.

Imagine being bound to a wheelchair one moment, then transported instantly to a vast, open space of infinite design; there is no limit to the experiences we can generate using virtual reality.

And though it may seem like an elaborate excuse to play video games for legitimate medical treatment, VR health technologies don’t stop at clinics and medical schools. Preventative medicine is also a gold-mine for new and innovative ways to encourage smoking cessation, teach stress management through meditation, and even treat vision disorders like amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (crossed eyes).

Virtual Reality

The fitness world is looking at equally as many disruptive technologies. From virtual cycling in any weather condition to a flying simulator that sculpts your core, the sky is no longer the limit for ways we can increase our health and wellbeing through virtual reality.

Almost inevitably, healthcare and virtual reality are bound to be seamless companions in the world of tomorrow. Developments in biofeedback, more precise sensors, and deeper analytics will continue to push our visions of treatment and medicine to realities we’ve yet to dream of.

Author: Connor Smith

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