The media doesn’t tire of telling us about the big Virtual Reality revolution of 2016. With Oculus, HTC, and Sony coming out with major consumer VR products this year, few are willing to doubt that VR will make a splash.
There are certainly some clever solutions out there which seem to bring the farflung future crashing into the contemporary and commonplace. Such as recent news that Microsoft’s bold promise from last year has taken shape, now enabling customers to custom-design their kitchens at select Lowe’s stores using Microsoft’s augmented reality tool, HoloLens.
However, virtual home design is tame compared to some of the stranger VR offerings we can expect for the healthcare sector in 2016. So here are 11 strangest health care virtual reality developments you will see in 2016
VIRTUAL CONCUSSIONS AND LIVESTREAMING SURGERY
VR is set to play a major role in surgical emulation. This may not be that surprising as we already have a range of medical test dummies and we’ve been training pilots in flight simulators since the 1920s. Training new surgeons isn’t cheap and there is every indication that VR will play an important role in partially replacing human surgical training with VR headsets soon, becoming standard feature of medical student’s dorm rooms like caffeine pills and Grey’s Anatomy DVDs.
But this is only the first step in the weird world of medical VR. Next month, Dr. Shafi Ahmed at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, has promised surgery-fans a 360-degree video livestream of a cancer operation. The price of entry is a piece of Google Cardboard and you will be whisked away to the middle of the operating theater.
In France, surgeons have turned it around and are experimenting with placing VR headsets on the patients themselves during brain surgery. By providing the patients with artificial stimuli in a simulated environment, doctors are able to better direct the patient’s brain processes during the procedure.
For some tech geeks when simulated surgery and live surgical broadcast just doesn’t cut it, VR has the answer. With the aptly-named Inside the Human Body experience, users get an Inner-Space-like journey through the inside of human arteries. For an AR experience of the human body, maybe you’d like to be able to hold your phone up to a friend’s body and inspect the placement of their organs with a virtual anatomy tool.
For others, they need nothing less than a first-hand experience of what is like to suffer a concussion (some would say the vertigo you feel after an hour in VR provides a pretty accurate simulation).
VIRTUAL MENTAL HEALTH AND BREAKING BAD HABITS
What about preventative measures? Well, when it comes to diet and exercise, our best efforts will often find themselves thwarted by the old mantra: “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” But what about those times when BOTH mind and body are feeling pretty weak? In Japan they are exploring VR’s ability to help with portion control by fooling the brain into thinking it is about to ingest a large portion of unhealthy food when faced with smaller portion.. After all, who wouldn’t want to think they are eating a chocolate chip cookie the size of a truck tire?
Or you could use VR as a motivational tool. By incorporating ‘multi-directional treadmills‘ into first person shooters, gaming could pose an interesting answer to the obesity epidemic. Nothing quite gets the cardio up like a horde of zombies coming for you at full sprint.
But there are other ways you can work with the mind to change unwanted behavioral patterns using VR. Some of the most immediate and promising benefits of VR in medical science are being explored by mental health professionals.
We have seen promising early results with VR and autism treatment where they have worked with younger patients to improve their social understanding and practice social skills.
Other uses include treatment of soldiers suffering from PTSD and in treating phobias and bipolar disorders.
What is clear is that we are only just beginning to explore the complexities and opportunities of VR technology. Now that average consumers are finally getting access to advanced, affordable Virtual Reality headsets, there’s no telling what advances we will see in the coming years. Or how that technology may come to affect the way we monitor, treat, and learn about the human body.
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