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5 Ways Virtual Reality is Helping the World Now

Mark Metry, Founder of VU Dream

January 26, 2017

Virtual Reality is at its infancy believe it or not. Which is quite impressive considering how much innovative and disruptive content we have already seen so far at the beginning of 2017.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at 9 different ways VR is helping the world right now in January 2017. We’ll examine the details that make VR such a viable and purposeful option for many people in need.

VR holds enormously effective potential in the healthcare sector. There’s an unbelievable amount of evidence of people who benefit from many issues.

By the end of this article, you’ll feel a lot more confident that you know how powerful Virtual Reality has the potential to be and multiple stories and studies of people who have had their lives changed because of this emerging technology.

Let’s begin.

1. VR Improves Disaster Relief Training

“Medical Simulation” is a VR system that helps train healthcare professional for disaster response. The Simulation will allow groups of people to train in highly realistic virtual environments. 

The Verge reported on this story and goes in more detail about the technicalities and whats possible with the system. 

“Medical Simulation could recreate events such as the Boston Marathon bombing or Hurricane Sandy to better prepare first responders in large cities. “We need first responders to be able to handle the chaos of that event, the fast triage, the assessment of casualties,” says Eric Rohde, chief strategist of medical simulations at Intelligent Decisions.

Before the start of each training session, up to nine first responders will stand in a large, bare room. When they don the display visor, Rohde explains, they will be fully immersed inside a game world that includes visual, auditory, and even atmospheric conditions like dust or rain, replicating the chaos and situational challenges of an emergency. As the user moves through the room, her movements are represented by an avatar to other players. “You see them as their avatar, you communicate, you give orders, and you assess wounds as if it’s in a real-world setting.”

2. Impact of Virtual Reality on Pain

The University of Washington HITLab, in collaboration with Harborview Burn Center, have developed a virtual environment “SnowWorld” that distracts the patient from the pain of having wound dressings changed. It is specifically designed to help burn patients reduce their pain.

This helmet allows patients to go into VR while getting wound care/debridement/bandages changed in a hydro tank, partially submerged in water.

Photograph by Clinical Journal of Pain

The results of the trials were unbelievable. A patient had two almost identical procedures, for one he was given a Nintendo console to play, for the second he used SnowWorld in VR. When asked how painful each procedure was, the second – performed whilst distracted by VR – showed less than half the level of pain.

3. Cardboard VR Headset saves Baby’s Life

This is a fantastic story which really shows the potential of virtual reality no matter how early it’s development stage. Reported by VR Intelligence – Virtual Reality Business Insight.

Baby Teegan Lexcen was born with only one lung and half her heart. Innovative doctors at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami mapped Teegan’s heart in virtual reality, using the 360-degree image to effectively plan a pioneering surgery technique to save her life.

Cassidy and Chad Lexcen were told there was nothing that could be done, and baby Teegan was sent home with a hospice nurse. Death seemed not only inevitable, but imminent.

Over two months later, Teegan was still fighting, and her parents started searching for someone who could help. After a couple of false starts, they finally found Dr. Redmond Burke, who agreed to look at their case.

Dr. Burke’s colleague, Dr. Muniz, attempted to use a 3D printer to make a model of Teegan’s heart, which would help inform the strategy for the surgery. With the 3D printer broken, Dr. Muniz used an app called Sketchfab to create a virtual reality model of the heart which could be viewed using Google Cardboard.

Within virtual reality the doctors could not only look at the heart, but effectively move around and view the heart from every possible angle. Critically they could also position the heart in relation to Teegan’s rib cage and other organs. What is crucial here is that every moment wasted on the operating table increases risk exponentially – that’s on top of the massive risk associated with operating on a baby in the first place.

Using the virtual image, there were no surprises for Dr. Burke when he finally opened up Teegan’s chest to operate. Burke performed the new surgery which he himself had invented – rerouting Teegan’s one ventricle so that it could effectively perform the task of a complete heart long term.

Just four weeks after surgery, Teegan was taken off the ventilator. She is expected to make a full recovery.

4. VR Treats Dementia patients 

Sonya Kim, a physician in the San Francisco Bay area, has been taking virtual-reality headsets to seniors as a part of their medical treatment. Her therapy program, Aloha VR, lets seniors use the headsets to bring variety into their days, relax and get away to a virtual tropical locale.

VR Dementia Treatment Elderly Senior Citizen

Source: The Washington Post

Kim’s company, One Caring Team, checks in with lonely seniors — partially to stave off the potentially debilitating depression that grips many older adults who live on their own. A woman, who heard Kim speak about her company, asked Kim to help her mother, who had dementia and couldn’t carry on a conversation.

Aloha VR is getting some dramatic results. In many cases, seniors who’ve withdrawn from the rest of the world because of dementia or depression have had their overall behavior greatly altered by their digital trips to the beach. Kim has seen patients who were unresponsive or even violent completely change after a few VR sessions.

Kim’s company has received several testimonials from patients’ relatives and caregivers who said the relaxing effects of the virtual-reality sessions have lasted for weeks. In the case of the dementia patient who started singing during his virtual-reality session, his family told Kim that they no longer worry about him hitting his caregivers or pulling their hair. Why does it work? Even Kim is not completely sure, but she does have a theory: Immersing some patients in a virtual world stimulates their brains in a variety of ways. “I think VR allows patients’ neural pathways to be reactivated — some have dormant pathways — because of the power of presence, of having something right in front of them without any distraction,” she said.

Sonya Kim, a physician in the San Francisco Bay area, has been taking virtual-reality headsets to seniors as a part of their medical treatment. Her therapy program, Aloha VR, lets seniors use the headsets to bring variety into their days, relax and get away to a virtual tropical locale.

Sonya Kim, a physician in the San Francisco Bay area, has been taking virtual-reality headsets to seniors as a part of their medical treatment. Her therapy program, Aloha VR, lets seniors use the headsets to bring variety into their days, relax and get away to a virtual tropical locale.

5. VR Combats Racial and Sexual Discrimination 

“Feeling prejudice by walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is what VR was made for,” says Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

The Interaction Lab’s diversity demo in action.


Photograph by Elise Ogle, Stanford University

The NFL hopes to leverage the immersive power of virtual reality, referred to by experts as “presence.” By putting on goggles that replace the real world with interactive VR scenes, the brain comes close to truly believing what it is seeing. The effect of such realism could be lasting behavioral change.


The Interaction Lab’s diversity demos are designed to transport users into unfamiliar and unsettling realms. In one scenario, a user is represented by an African-American female avatar who is being angrily harassed by a white avatar. When the user reflexively lifts his or her arms in self-defense, the hands feature black skin.

After the experiment, both groups were asked to search online for colorblind help groups – essentially a way to gauge empathy. The VR group wound up spending twice as much time searching the web for such organizations.

“What we’re learning here is that experiencing hardship in VR is better than role playing,” he says. “I’m not saying, ‘Put on a VR goggle and you’ve solved racism.’ But I’m optimistic it can help.”

Source: USA Today 


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