by Danny WU
“Alright class, strap on your goggles, today we are diving into the small intestine to prepare for next week’s exam”, stated the professor. In an instant everyone had their VR goggles on and were cruising through a river of proteins, fats, and enzymes. The nutrients are slowly being absorbed through the walls as if it was a cave with hundreds of inner streams. Alright back to reality. This scenario may be a little way’s off, but certainly well within the near future where virtual reality can be used as a medium to visualize the topics students are trying to gain knowledge and experience in. Currently we have many VR/AR companies such as Oculus mainly for games, such as “Beat Saber” a rhythm game where you knock projectiles that come to you in the same rhythm as a particular song. However, if it is something you can see and manipulate, there is potential to educate through it.
One highly anticipated field is what medical devices VR/AR can potentially bring for doctors and nurses as well as patients in terms of higher, safer, and more accurate medical procedures. One such product attempting to bring something to the table is Surgical Theater. The software “accesses files from a patient’s traditional image modalities, such as CT or MRI scans, and processes the information to create patient-specific, VR reconstructions to help a neurosurgeon plan surgery, and educate the patient about their neurological condition.” (Surgical Theater). We can potentially use this technology not only in professional settings, but for medical students as well to aid them in better identifying abnormalities within certain organs to plan the procedure in a visual way to minimize mistakes that can harm the patient. Eventually we may even simulate the surgeries themselves and visually see what effects the patient’s body is going through as we move along in a procedure than having a dummy to operate on assuming that we are doing everything correctly when it may be something fatal that was overlooked. We may even get to the point where we can just scan a patient’s brain and see a real time VR/AR version of it and have no need to for x-rays, which may save time and potentially a patient’s life. This is just one of the many possible careers VR/AR can help students prepare for.
While is very exciting for what we can bring to students, VR/AR is another tool for us to have students engage the material. It is by no means the clear cut solution. Lectures that do utilize this technology will have to be specifically constructed for students to actually be immersed in the topic and not the temporal shift in reality itself. If a professor was teaching geography or history, showing simulations of battles or seeing environmental changes may be beneficial, but it shouldn’t be presented as a movie or a documentary. The professor needs to be active in having this material translate to the student asking questions and providing their own insights on the topic to develop learning and understanding.
“Plan & Navigate Surgeries | Surgical Theater.” Medical Virtual Reality, www.surgicaltheater.net/plan-navigate/.