By Danny Wu, EdTech Programmer

“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 was 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 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 mainly for games, such as “Beat Saber”, a rhythm game where you knock projectiles coming at 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.

A guy with VR Goggles

One highly anticipated ­eld is what medical device VR/ARs can potentially bring to doctors, nurses, and patients in higher, safer, and more accurate medical procedures. One such product being brought to the table is Surgical Theater. The software “accesses ­les 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 and to plan the procedure in a visual way to minimize potentially harmful mistakes. Eventually, we may even simulate the surgeries themselves and visually see the effects on the patient’s body.

 

 

Scientists using Virtual reality techologyThis would be a great advance over the common practice of having a dummy to “operate” on, needing to assume that everything is being done correctly because no effects are experienced if errors are made. 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 specially 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 mate[1]rial translate to the student asking questions and providing their own insights on the topic to develop learning and understanding.

Sources: “Plan & Navigate Surgeries | Surgical Theater.” Medical Virtual Reality, www.surgicaltheater.net/plan-navigate/.

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