Virtual Reality is a technology that uses head mounted displays to generate realistic images and sounds that stimulate a user’s presence in imaginary or virtual environments – such as being in a remote primary healthcare center, a hospital ward, a consulting room, in a dentist’s clinic, or even in an ICCU or operation theatre. In fact, one can be even in places that are not possible to go to in reality – such as being within the heart, brain or being an avatar different from your own, such as of a different gender or ethnicity.
Within the VR environment, the user can be tracked in 3D space using sensors and can interact with elements in the scene such as the patient, various instruments and machines through use of hand controllers.
Healthcare is slated to become one of the biggest adopters of Virtual Reality. Many healthcare organizations across the globe have started making use of VR in their processes and have started to realize its benefits. The launch and subsequent ready availability of VR equipment such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Headset HTC’s Vive, Samsung’s Gear VR, etc. has further accelerated the usage of VR in healthcare. Some sample applications of VR/AR include:
- Medical Education & Training: VR based simulation are being used in medical education and training. VR-based companies such as Immertive can develop products for you combining 360-degree video and 3D interactive content to develop the best possible learning programs for medical students, doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals. VR apps allows users to practice complex, often life-saving procedures ensuring patient safety and across multiple environments and scenarios. The feedback during the training session tracks how they are doing vis-à-vis an expert and how much their skills are improving.
- Uses in Psychiatry: VR provides an inexpensive means to provide gradual desensitization through exposure therapy, one of the standard procedures for treating various mental illness including phobias, OCD and even autism. VR can also be used to put the patient into different types of environments that help to relax and calm the body and treat anxiety and panic attacks.
- Pain Management: Cognitive distraction has used successfully by psychiatrists to treat various types of pain. VR brings a new dimension to these distraction methods by involving the viewer to participate in interactive games can be played in a simulated environment. There are apps that provide therapeutic VR for burn victims or manage limb pain management efficiently. VR promises a drug-free pain management alternative to be used within multiple clinical care settings.
- Physical Fitness, Physiotherapy & Rehabilitation: Combining exercise routines with VR – Gyms are now providing exercise bicycles that allow you to ride through beautiful and varied 3D environments such as around famous places and monuments around the world with programming to induce certain heart rates by making them peddle across flat tracks or inclines, all while tracking vital parameters through wearables such as Fitbit. In addition, VR can play a major role in facilitating physiotherapy with games such as rowing a boat or engaging in physiotherapy exercise routines that incorporate VR gaming, especially for children.
- Other Uses: There are several other applications of VR in healthcare that include VR in Dentistry, VR avatars for treatment for PTSD, VR replacing expensive mannequins in Nursing Skills Labs, VR for rehabilitation of the disabled, VR to treat phobias such as fear of heights, snakes, closed spaces, etc.
Types of VR output
- Desktop or Screen Based VR: Here the experience is developed to be used with either a desktop PC monitor or an Interactive Touch Device like an iPad, Smartphone or even a large Touch Table such as the Anatomage. In this case, the virtual world is represented, but the user is not completely immersed in it, he just looks at the scene from outside and interacts my using keyboard keys, the mouse or through a touch screen.
- Semi-Immersive VR: A Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) puts the user in a room where all the walls and the floor are projection screens (or flat displays). The user can optionally wear 3D glasses and the optical illusion makes the user feel like he is in actually within the projected world where he can move around freely.
- Immersive VR: Here, the same experience is developed for use through a Head Mounted Display (HMD) which may be a simple $5 Google Cardboard or high-fidelity devices such as Samsung’s Gear VR, Facebook’s Oculus or HTC’s Vive. This makes the user feel immersed in the virtual environment, where he can freely move around just as if it was real.
Developing compelling VR applications, both for Screen Based VR and Immersive Head Mounted VR requires a blend of different talents – medical domain, biomedical engineers, visual designers and design thinkers, 3D graphic artists, 360 degree video producers and software engineers and programmers. The team at Immertive brings together:
- Healthcare Domain Knowledge: We work with our in-house team of medical & medical education experts collaborating with an external panel of specialty-wise subject matter experts. Our interdisciplinary team also includes biomedical engineers, instructional designers and gaming design experts.
- Design Thinking Approach: Design Thinking is a key approach in development of VR experiences as it puts the user in the center of the development. Our design team covers all aspects of Visual Design including Information design, Interactivity design, Navigation design, Interface design, Identity design and Graphic design. VR based UX design brings its own challenges as the UX is now all around and our design experts create unique interfaces that make the experience as real and intuitive as virtually possible.
- Software Development: Our software engineers and programmers are adept at using Unity and Unreal Engine to build 3D immersive interactive VR experiences.
- Technology: We build Screen-based VR applications for iPad and Android Tablets as well as for Large Screen Touch-Screen panels including Interactive Tables. For Immersive VR, we support Facebook Oculus, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive and Google Daydream.