I recently attended a Gaming festival in Dallas. This was the 8th edition of the annual event to bring together people who make video games to help society. They showed how much of a reality VR for healthcare is becoming.

Today, there are more and more video games explicitly being designed to improve health. For example, Amblyotech and Ubisoft are introducing Dig Rush to help kids with “Lazy eyes” or amblyopia.

Last year during a visit to Sheffield Hospital, saw the Oculus is being used as pain relief for burn victims and as an incentive for pediatric patients to do physiotherapy.

Have you ever heard of CPR being given through VR?

Well, that's also a reality.

Lets discuss the use cases I frequently came across in Dallas.

Autism Therapy

Can you imagine how many people around the world has autism spectrum disorder(also known as Asperger syndrome)?

It's 1% of the world's population (CDC), which corresponds to 3.5 million Americans.

That huge !!

And what's more disturbing is there is no cure available at the moment.

However, language and speech therapy can help improve communication abilities and social interaction. As of now these therapies involve in-person sessions with the doctor.

Startups like Floreo made these visits far less which enables the delivery of therapy simplified.

They use mobile VR to instigate social interaction with autistic kids by spurring virtual characters in a scene. So instead of looking at toys in the table, kids can actually see a giraffe in a virtual safari park.

Moreover, parents or doctors can tailor the virtual environment and choose the sensory complexity within them. It's too early to predict its future, but the product seems to have a particularly calming effect on children.

Relax while on Hospital Bed

Lying down on a hospital bed counting the days until your release can be a struggle. Patients constantly miss their family and friends and get a sensation that time has stopped.

There is also a solution for this.

Companies like VisitU provide patients with a downloadable app and virtual glass which allow them to get in touch with their home and loved ones, day and night.

Also, medical VR makes it easier for friends and relatives to maintain relationships with the hospitalized person.

Low Vision

One thing I have been pondering is the use of VR to correct misaligned eyes. In theory, you could control the image alignment to encourage eyes towards the center, little by little, over a number of sessions, strengthening the relevant muscle so they can properly center the eye in the real world. I had no idea if it's viable to implement until I came across a product like  IrisVision.

Its a team lead by Dr. Frank Weblin, who worked on providing patients with a way to magnify desired objects in the visual scene without losing awareness of the overall environment around them. This gets fun with the variety of options users get to do with it- setting contract, ambient level, magnification level, and text option. It also helps in eye-hand coordination that is you can play piano or scramble eggs with relative ease.

VR in Surgery Education

AR provides a three-dimensional space for demonstration, interaction, simulation of a specific procedure and an opportunity to collaborate from distinct locations.

I remember, in the TEDWomen 2017 presentation,  Dr. Nadine Hachach-Haram provided a live demonstration of the use of AR in remote surgery. From the podium in New Orleans, she connected with online with an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Minnesota utilizing the augmented reality collaboration software that ger company developed. This is a big milestone in healthcare access to the remote location.

Steven Schwaitzberg, MD, FACS from the University of Buffalo Jacobs school of medicine and biomedical science, stress the benefits of AR in providing a safe environment for the residents to practice surgery. In a simulated surgery environment, residents can take exams that enable automated scorekeeping that provides instant automatic feedback.

Reducing Pain

More than 11 percent of Americans suffer from chronic pain, with more and more relying on painkillers to make everyday life less struggle. VR has been proved to reduce pain by 25 %.

Medical VR has been evidenced to top tha brain from processing pain and reduce pain in hospitalized patients. Thus reducing the length of patients stay in hospital.

Various real-life projects such as Farmoo have been created to help distracts the minds of chronic patients and focus more on VR world that helps alleviate pain and releases stress.

Imagine swimming together with whales in a beautiful ocean or joining helicopter ride over the wonderful landscape.

Future of VR

VR has many applications in gaming, education, and healthcare. The value to ill increase exponentially with the integration of IoT data, artificial intelligence(such as IBM Watson), tactile and haptic feedback capabilities and the printing of 3D models in surgical planning.

Product development (sharing the development of medical devices collaboratively in a 3D space over long distances), the democratization of innovation (using easy to use mobile devices) and interactive learning (such as product manuals and immersive simulation) will advance AR across most disciplines.