Augmented and virtual reality crosses the threshold of the health field

Andrea Ramirez

The cross between technology and healthcare has revolutionized traditional medical practices. Two particularly important and recent ones are augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

What’s the difference between augmented and virtual reality?

The essential component of AR is that it enhances what is already present in the real world. It gathers important data from its surroundings and creates models with this information.

For example, graphics and informational text can be presented on a chosen device, such as smart glasses. Simply put, it adds information and increases access to data to a real world setting.

In contrast, VR is used to create a virtual simulation; it does not rely on an existing environment. The characteristics of the environment created by VR are completely determined by the user.

What respective benefits do these technologies have on the medical field?

AR and VR present good opportunities for the medical field that are unique to their respective functionalities.

As mentioned, the key function of VR is that it’s completely based on a fictional environment. This makes it easier to set up specific parameters or situations to present endless possibilities. VR thus plays a large role in the medical training and education process.

For example, medical students can experiment with surgery techniques using VR. Specific techniques can be practiced in the setup virtual world, where mistakes and redos are encouraged. This also helps outline any surgical risk, so techniques can be perfected and outlined risks can be noted in time for actual patient procedures.

In addition, it eliminates the need for actual patients, which means that unnecessary or risky surgeries are no longer needed.

Adversely, the key distinction of AR is that it’s based on an already existing reality, and it enhances both the virtual and real world. AR can be paired with sensors to visualize and organize relevant data, and it is key in forming a comprehensive summary of a patient’s current state. These results can be mapped with existing patient issues to efficiently find a solution.

For example, AR can be paired with a regular physiotherapy session to gather fresh and constant data. Constant data gathering allows physiotherapists to accurately assess their patient situation and thus provide better session orientation.

In addition, because AR relies on an existing environment, it can be easily accessed with a smartphone.

This shows how AR can be widely available and relatively inexpensive. Greater availability for AR implies increased access and ease of use.

Undoubtedly, AR and VR have already begun to positively impact the health and medical field by complementing traditional treatments.

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