Health benefits through applications of VR & AR

Various types of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications have been developed to achieve health gains and opportunities are rapidly increasing, due to the availability of affordable VR consumer electronics. In a virtual reality, lifelike contacts with other people can prevent loneliness and social isolation at a distance.

AR can support people in daily activities so that they can more easily live independently. In healthcare, hospitals can use VR to prepare patients, especially children, for surgery or to distract them from painful treatments. For example, ill children that have to endure a long stay at the hospital can take a look at how things are at home through VR. A virtual environment can help to relax patients in various settings.

Research has shown that a patient experiences less pain when they can stay in virtual nature scenes during dental treatment. In the treatment of anxiety disorders, virtual exposure to the anxiety-provoking situation is often an important part of the therapy. People with autism can practice virtual situations in dealing with unusual social situations.

Conversely, VR can be used to simulate what people experience with certain mental illnesses, such as anxiety, upheaval and certain thoughts. For example, caregivers can experience the reality experienced by the patient themselves, giving them a better understanding of their patients or their loved ones. This is used, for example, in the training of caretakers of people with dementia or people with various types of psychosis.

Another important application of virtual and augmented reality is the application in the training and daily work of doctors and nurses to practice and prepare for difficult actions. As these technologies develop, we can easily imagine anatomical information, in either 3D, VR or AR, overlapped on top of patients. Hospitals could use AI algorithms that duplicate the patient in real time and compare the operating field with anatomical data.

Vital bodily structures can be identified and highlighted in AR. Unfortunately, sometimes errors occur where surgeons cut something they aren’t supposed. It happens. The tangle of anatomy, obscured by blood and connective tissue, can be challenging to interpret. Any help can potentially reduce such errors.

Imagine nerves, organs and major blood vessels highlighted and color-coded. Imagine tumors similarly outlined in AR, showing its relationship to surrounding vital anatomy. All these things are already possible. If only there was a way to make such technologies cheap and accessible for mass applications…