It’s been a year now since the launch of the Oculus and the HTC Vive, and the VR-hype-train seems to only be accelerating in 2017. It almost stands to reason to assume that gaming and entertainment are still the two primary content drivers behind the technology, yet other areas and industries of our day-to-day life seems to have gradually built up courage and taken a look at what made VR appetizing, and then applied it to their own fields of work. We’ve seen educational content for schools, commercial examples engaging consumers and yes – even medical virtual reality, which we will be discussing today.
Let’s explore 6 incredible examples of medical virtual reality. All of these individual projects are herculean accomplishments in their own right, and they all do a great deal of good, which is the rationale in this not being a numbered list. Without further ado, let’s get to it!
Virtual Reality (VR) Pain Relief UCSF Benioff Childrens Hospital Oakland
First up we have KindVR, a California-based research-company whose medical virtual reality mission is to help patients mitigate pain and stress through the use of custom built VR software for specific medical procedures and conditions. The team has since its launch been partnering with hospitals not only in America, but Canada as well. A case study is briefly available for us all to see, as the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland launched a video recently. In the video (available right above) the team presents just how they utilize VR to help patients with Sickle Cell Disease remove focus from their pain and make life a little easier, if only for a brief moment of time.
Medical Field: Pain Relief
Company / Organization: KindVR
Institute for Creative Technologies, USC
Moving on, we’ll be covering another American player in the field, who have had years of experience working with technology-based mental rehabilitation – namely, the work by the Institute for Creative Technologies the University of Southern California. Here, at Playa Vista, several incredibly high-production projects are constantly taking shape, led by the team’s director Skip Rizzo who we at the editorial had a brief chance to meet when he attended VR Days in Amsterdam back in 2016.
“VR is an evocative technology. It can bring out emotions that sometimes can’t come out in other ways. This is where VR shines. You can put people in simulations that bring up an emotion, and then teach them ways to deal with that emotion in an appropriate fashion” – Skip Rizzo
Some of the lab’s projects include delivering cognitive or physical rehab after someone’s had a stroke or traumatic brain injury for instance as well as teaching people with autism some social skills. These are just examples, and the team is working on plenty of projects that will make your jaw drop. In fact, here’s a handful of selected projects we thought you might want to check out, just so you can get an idea of how vast this project really is:
- Human Dimension Development
- Disaster Relief Simulation
- Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention
- Health Care Support
- Post-Traumatic Stress Treatment
- Counter-Terrorism Preparedness
The project is funded by the US army. The army has a plethora of different research labs around the world, yet this particular one has a focus on VR and innovative technologies.Their work on mental health and rehabilitation is undisputed, and known world-wide for being state-of-the-art content. When we attended the VR Days event, we couldn’t walk across a group of people without at one point hearing a reference to the work Skip and the team is doing. We wish them the best of luck in their pursuits!
Medical Field: Mental Health, Rehabilitation
Company / Organization: USC Institute for Creative Technologies
Cancer Surgeon Trains 13.000+ Medical Students Through Live 360° Video
Next, we have the acclaimed 2016 live streaming of a cancer-based medical procedure, which was recorded in live 360° video while 13.000+ medical students from all around the world were checking in and taking notes along the way. An incredible new way to learn complicated medical operations for sure.
The surgeon behind this undertaking was Professor Shafi Ahmed, a UK-based cancer surgeon, entrepreneur, and TEDx speaker whose medical virtual reality achievements has carved his name into the cornerstone of medical virtual reality. The work carried out by Professor Shafi has attracted the attention of a swarm of journalists from the world’s leading tech publications such as Business Insider, The Guardian, Wired and many other high-profile news outlets. If the end goal is to unify and educate the medical community as a whole, then this is one incredible example of how to do it with VR.
- “Watch the world’s first surgery streamed in virtual reality live from London” – Telegraph
- “Watch a real cancer surgery streamed live in virtual reality at 8AM ET” – The Verge
- “Watch A Live Operation Streamed In Virtual Reality On 14 April” – The Huffington Post
Apart from saving the lives of patients on his table, Professorr Shafi also runs the Medical Realities platform, which is designed on the very same principle; to give surgical and medical training to people around the world and thus shattering the borders and barriers separating people of different geographies and nationalities from medical education.
Note: Medical Realities recently launched as a top-rated app on the Android Play Store, and can be downloaded for free here.
Medical Field: Surgery, Education
Company / Organization: Medical Realities
Oncomfort Facilitates VR-based Pain Relief and Self Management for Cancer Patients
It would seem that the use of Virtual Reality as a tool for good has reached far and wide these past few years. Next up on our list is the Belgium-based Oncomfort, an award-winning company whose main focus and heart-warming mission is to utilize VR technology to provide patients (mainly with cancer) with anxiety and pain self-management tools.
“Oncomfort leverages virtual reality technology to help train patients in stress management techniques, give them easy-to- understand information, and help them feel more in control, calm, and comfortable.” – Diane Jooris
In a world where the main discussion around “what’s going to make or break the industry”, this makes the mentioning of whether or not these devices might run the latest version of Grand Theft Auto entirely obsolete. The fact that this thing we do can make life even a little bit easier for those unfortunate enough to find themselves with a diagnose like that, is reason enough for us to keep going.
- “Oncomfort wins award for helping cancer patients manage anxiety through VR” – Venturebeat
- “Health tech company uses virtual reality to help cancer patients” – Houston Business Journal
- “Shark Tank’ star touts virtual reality chemotherapy for kids” – Fox News
The company focuses on the use of the Samsung GearVR which arguably is one of the most efficient pieces of mobile VR technology. Its visual capabilities is one of the most refined in the realm of mobile VR. The use of a plug-and-play solution makes it quick and easy for the team to initiate treatment without the use of heavy machinery. Efficient, emphatic, effective.
Medical Field: Pain Relief, Anxiety Management
Company / Organization: Oncomfort
VR-Tech Helps Paraletics Regain Muscle Control
Through the use of VR-based simulation and a brain-wave controlled robotic suit, eight patients suffering from severe spinal cord injuries have managed to regain partial neurological control over their lower bodies after an extensive 12 month training program. There’s even sources stating that some have regained muscle control later on.
“Nobody ever imagined that one day, we will be talking about the possibility of using brain-machine interface to induce partial neurological recovery in patients who have been diagnosed as having complete spinal cord injury.” – Dr. Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina
This is massive, and while we’re only in the very early stages of figuring out just how the use of Virtual Reality assisted and accelerated the use of the Exoskeleton, it’s still a tremendous achievement that deserves a spot on today’s list nonetheless.
- “Robot-Like Machines Helped People With Spinal Injuries Regain Function” – NPR
- “Paralysed patients are able to walk again using virtual reality and brain training in ‘suprising’ breakthrough” – The Daily Mail
- “A Robotic Suit Is Helping Paralyzed People Feel Their Legs Again” – The Huffington Post
If you have the know-how and mental fortitude to read through it, the entirety of the study is freely available as a PDF here.
Medical Field: Rehabilitation
Company / Organization: Duke University
You VR – Biological Simulation Software
We have reached the final item on the list, and this one is surely a force to be reckoned with. YouVR is a platform created by BioLucid that allows you to explore a virtual version of a biological human body. According to their company profile, BioLucid is a digital health company committed to Making Health Visual and providing solutions for effective visual communication.
“YouVR is the ultimate exploration inside of the human body. Fully immersive, living, breathing simulated human body” – Jeff Hazelton, Co-Founder, BioLucid
This simple yet powerful piece of software has been adapted by educational and health-based institutions on a large scale, and is going strong to this day. The application is one of the most visually stunning examples of medical VR software available right now.
Medical Field: Education, Simulation
Company / Organization: BioLucid
Summary: Medical Virtual Reality
Throughout the past 50 years, the capabilities within science, health and medicine has expanded significantly and like VR, it looks like we’re constantly finding new ways to improve. It seems almost a daily occurrence now, that technology finds a way to accelerate the way we operate within our healthcare facilities. We’re thankful (and truthfully excited to see) that immersive technology has some practical usage towards healing the world as well.
We thank you for your visit to this list of incredible uses of medical virtual reality. If you happen to have stumbled across something exciting in the field of health and medicine that ought to be on our list, let us know in the comments section below.