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Could VR’s Application in Medicine Lead to a Full Virtual Reality Revolution?

Researchers at the University of Cambridge discovered in October 2020 that they can implement virtual reality technology to allow scientists to ‘walk inside’ cells. By taking a different approach to the cell’s design, complex conditions can be analyzed more thoroughly and new avenues for treatment can be discovered. The vLUME software was a partnership with the University of Cambridge and Lume VR Ltd and allows high-resolution microscopic data to be seen in virtual reality, including in as much detail as individual proteins. Could we see a huge virtual reality revolution in the coming years?

Virtual Reality and Medicine

Virtual reality may have seemed like a gratuitous extension of the gaming, entertainment, and tech industries – offering new ways of doing interesting things. But its use in medicine could render it a game-changer, especially for public perception. For instance, surgeries can be planned in better detail by mapping them onto virtual versions of the human body. In 2016, the University of Basel pioneered computed tomography scanning (CT scanning) to use virtual bodies in surgical planning.

Those interested in the ability to walk through a human cell can try it themselves, albeit with less sophistication, with the 2015-launched InCell VR game. Luden.io’s InCell VR turns you into a scientist investigating, racing, and battling your way through a human cell, defending yourself against viruses. Not only does the gamification of the human cell give you education in biology, but it is also presented in a fun way. This shows that we are at a watershed of virtual reality technology where it is being enhanced for entertainment, but also for straightforward uses.

Entertainment Goes Virtual

While not fully virtual reality, there are already many adaptions across a range of sectors that reflect our reliance on VR, including with 3D developments and augmented reality. We might not have achieved full and immersive virtual reality – gaming and entertainment make up 40.5% of the market share, but the use in other sectors is growing.

For example, downloaded more than 200,000 times, the Virtual Speech app helps you practice your oratory abilities – by giving you a virtual audience. The app mimics the idea that an audience would be there watching you to help you practice, while also offering tips based on where you spent your time looking and which audience members need more eye contact.

But it’s entertainment that will help the public warm to VR and its offshoots, which will be the most likely cause of any VR revolution. For example, in gaming, for the tech giant’s virtual platform, Google Cardboard, VR Street Jump is a remake of the crossing the street game, Frogger, utilizing virtual reality to give a different slant to the game. Arcade game Galactica has been transformed into the VR game Minos Starfighter. It retains the original gameplay and essence while updating how players can engage with the game. Similarly, Ludia’s Jurassic World Alive uses AR tech to bring dinosaurs from the hit franchise into the real world and players’ direct environments.

Across entertainment, online casino sites like Betway have taken the essence of table games and combined them with semi-virtual technology to create live casino games. For games where tension is ramped up, seeing someone, even if they can’t see you, can help add to the atmosphere. Elsewhere, in 2018 Facebook showed the beginnings of its VR plans through its 3D and VR-themed Facebook 360 images. Users can post 3D pictures that allow greater depth than the standard 2D ones. The social media goliath has been building its VR capabilities in recent years.

Virtual reality has been adopted in some way by a swathe of industries and has even been proved to increase empathy. By enhancing what can be done for our entertainment with VR, we are more likely to push for greater adoption in other spheres. The uses in medicine are just one example of a sector that is using VR as a solution to age-old problems, and one that like other modern inventions will soon seem impossible to live without.

Finding unique and beneficial uses in a field such as medicine is a huge coup for virtual reality and shows what it can be used for in the future. As its strengths are discovered, the industry will gain more attention and possibly greater investment. We can already see many industries utilizing virtual reality – or elements of it – to offer something new and exciting. This helps proliferate the buzz around the technology, which those developing it hopes will lead to the industry’s greater expansion.

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