Virtual reality is used in both the medical and dentistry fields where it has several advantages over conventional systems. The dental applications of this technology are discussed in more detail in our virtual reality in dentistry article.
But what about medicine you ask yourself? We know virtual reality is used in surgery, especially the field of robotic surgery where it has proven to be very successful. This is discussed further in our virtual reality in surgery article.
This article concentrates on virtual reality within a medical setting. For example, it is used for visualisation purposes when formulating a diagnosis. Reaching a diagnosis means conducting a series of tests which produce complex sets of data. But virtual reality can be used to create a visual explanation of this data which is easier to read, understand and interpret.
It is also used when training front line professionals, e.g. first responders to deal with small and large scale emergencies. A series of virtual environments can be developed which contain different scenarios, e.g. road traffic accident which the first responders have to deal with. This is where they learn decision making skills as well as the practical hands on skills required in this type of situation. Another option is disaster training such as a chemical spillage or an outbreak of an infectious disease which often results in large numbers of casualties.
Virtual reality teaches these professionals how to respond in such an emergency where time is of the essence. Plus they can do without the risk of harm to themselves or their patients. This type of training system can be used time and time again and with the option to adjust according to the skill level and experience of the participants.
Plus a scenario can be created in a virtual environment which is not possible in the real world, for example a simulation of a major accident on a section of the UK’s motorways system. This would not be allowed for a variety of reasons but could be replicated in a virtual world. This and other scenarios provide a realistic depiction of an accident which the participant interacts with via a head mounted display (HMD), data glove and/or input device. This enables them to learn about the importance of teamwork and appropriate behaviour at that time.
Other uses include rehabilitation, phobia therapy and preventative medicine.