The Present and the Future of VR Technology in Medicine:
successful cases and prospects for development
We often write about the implementation of VR in education, not paying the proper attention to other areas of human life. Nowadays VR technology takes precedence not only over entertainment but has been also slowly penetrated in other spheres. According to the analysts’ projections from Goldman Sachs, VR will be actively integrated with the next 8 key industries: healthcare, real estate, retail, events, video production, education, engineering, army. Let’s make a more detailed review of the first one. How far VR has got inside in the work of the medical community and what we can expect in future?
According to the report of consulting company Industry ARC, VR/AR reality market in medicine will reach 2.54$ million by the year 2020. Based on their research, specialists are focused now on two main directions: training for doctors and rehabilitation of patients.
Let’s start with the facts — what has been already used and discussed across the world. VR is already helping amputees to get rid of phantom pains. In Sweden in the Chalmers University of Technology, the experiment was conducted. Patient with an amputated hand could see how he was driving a car in the virtual reality. The motion sensors have been hooked up to his limb. His brain got the visual confirmation that his amputated hand was moving and reacting on movement. The intensity and frequency of pain have decreased after the experiment.
MindMaze company already uses VR technology for rehabilitation of patients after severe strokes. The system they’ve developed shows people their avatars which repeat all their movements and makes them do some exercises with their hand. It activates the damaged parts of the brains and neural pathways.
The most effective way of using VR today can be found in psychotherapy. It helps, in particular, to struggle with the different kinds of phobia — fear of heights, spiders, darkness and etc. Under close supervision, the patients immerse in the virtual reality in some comfortable space where they face their psychological problem.
The other biggest medical activity that gets only better with the help of VR is training for future specialists. As far back as 2014, Shafi Ahmed performed an operation to remove cancer by broadcasting the course of the operation in Google Glass for 13 000 students. Such an experiment let the audience to observe the whole process with their own eyes in real time and even ask this doctor questions.
Photo Credit: Medical Realities
The professors of medical school at Stanford University are also going to use VR for training their students. VR simulators will help to study the anatomy of the human body. In addition, the research team from Cambridge will get a grant of £40 million for realization the project on 3D visualization of cancerous tumors. The scientists are planning to divide the tumors into very thin layers and digitize it. 3D models will help them to examine cancer tumors in the virtual reality.
In general, VR technology already saves people’s lives, helps patients who suffer from different ills and helps doctors in some disciplines of medicine — from surgery to rehabilitation. With every passing month, the variety of devices and applications is increasing which contributes to faster developing VR in medicine. That’s why we can safely assume — using VR in medicine is going to become the norm soon.