Health IS Technology Blog

Virtual Reality - From Science Fiction to Real Opportunities


Virtual Reality User Has Fun Playing Game

Nothing in recent memory has taken off quite like the concept of Virtual Reality.  Once thought to be nothing more than a Sci-Fi movie trope. It has been earth-shattering to realize that its time is here, right now with us.  Like any field taking its first shaky steps, there are areas that remain lacking. Cameras are catching up faster than audio and head gear is steadily outpacing modern development in some cases. But the area that is lacking the most is

content. Content creation and content validity have come under intense scrutiny by the proponents of VR and its critics. 

Oculus Launch Pad for Virtual Reality

Oculus, the main reason Virtual Reality is thriving, was founded by Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey. Though, in 2014 it was bought by Facebook. With 2 billion invested, Facebook’s goal was significant. They needed to support and ensure a growing population of VR content creators and editors. So, in early 2016 Facebook proposed a new development initiative to aid potential Virtual Reality content creators. They named it Launch Pad, a one day VR boot camp located at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, CA. This initial launch was limited to 100 people. With a background in both instructional and game design and development, I submitted my application. Later, I was delighted to discover that I was among the chosen few who would benefit from this special session. You can use the following link to review a full account of the experience:

Virtual Reality with Oculus Launchpad

Instructional Designer Travels to FacebookPart of the application process was to present to the committee what type of Virtual Reality content the applicant intended to create using this session as a boosting point. As an instructional designer working in higher education I thought of many ways to implement Virtual Reality. I was able to summarize this into three basic applications. The most obvious was to use it to acclimate new students to life in a university campus environment. I also saw potential in developing Virtual Reality experiences for aiding Human Resources with compliance and safety training. However, further research led me to see the constantly expanding potential to benefit many medical students. Specifically, those invested in completing their learning objectives and developing alternate methods of treatment for health conditions. There are no shortage of opportunities for progress in VR, you see. 

Finding Locations on Campus

One of the greatest opportunities of Virtual Reality is its ability to generate high amounts of empathy and connection for the user. Within university and college environments, the most practical usage of VR seems to live in building a sense of belonging and community as was recently demonstrated through Full Sail University’s virtual campus tour. Student Touring Campus in VR

Think about the potential to alleviate anxiety for new students considering an unfamiliar environment. Potential and incoming students of the near future could feasibly tour the campus, find parking, key buildings, and service centers from the comfort of a self-paced Google cardboard presentation. Suddenly issues that can prove to be debilitating for student success have become part of the acceptance process of going to school. 

Legal and Physical Hazard Safety Training 

Another very popular ideology behind the use of Virtual Reality lies in its ability to expose the user to environments a person might not be able to be physically present in due to either lack of accessibility or potential hazard. Beneficial examples include the use of Virtual Reality for the sake of safety and compliance training. Aspects of training topics such as, HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) or Medicare Fraud can be covered in virtual experiences. Participants can later be tested for certification in virtual environments. This is an especially valid consideration in regards to any training that deals with spotting and reporting hazardous situations. 

Training and Medical Care 

The academic and training potential for Virtual Reality is essentially limitless due to the level of integration with the senses. While all academics can benefit from this, VR has an especially unique relationship with medical training and care. There are existing Virtual Reality experiences that detail the human anatomy and create safe spaces to identify potential diseases and illnesses. This can be applied to explore virtual patient training that helps medical students develop bedside manner or perform appropriate diagnoses. 

The next frontier for Virtual Reality and medical training has started to appear in the advances made in methods of treatment. One recent and incredible discovery includes paraplegics who have retrained themselves to walk using Virtual Reality. Furthermore, Medical personnel have adapted to using Virtual Reality as an alternative to pain medication for severe injuries where constant medication can be problematic such as with severe burn victims. In some cases, Virtual Reality has also been used to successfully treat dementia and Alzheimer’s. And this is only the beginning. 

The Launchpad experience was exceedingly valuable as I was able to meet with and receive knowledge directly from VR industry leaders as well as peers who see the overarching potential of expanding the offerings in this new technology. The people I interacted with were thoughtful, passionate and eager. They spoke of realized dreams and using this as a light to guide humanity forward through empathy, compassion, and art. This is a shared purpose and passion that education should not ignore. Seek instead to progress with us. 

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Bekah Witten
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Bekah is the content writer for the University of South Florida department of Information Technology.