Weekly Things: VR Enhances Our Health

Daniel Saltzman of the University of Minnesota used virtual reality to enhance the size of organs to help assist making incisions to separate conjoined twins. (Courtesy of the University of Minnesota)

And how amazing is that? For the non-clickers, that is our buddy VR, under the direction of Daniel Saltzman surgeon for The University of Minnesota , using VR  to ‘enhance’  the image of the infants’ organs- just like in the movies! Mother Paris Marie Brian said her children weren’t expected to live, but Daniel was able to ‘enhance’ the image using VR. And so two lives were saved by science fiction becoming science reality.


That got me to thinking, and when I get a thinking, I get a googling- how else is VR shaping how we approach human health? This is the short list:


At The Vaccine Research Centre, Bill Gates can barely contain his glee when talking to researchers about the use of VR in studying viruses.

Ok, Bill, calm down and tell me what all this research is about:


Yes, I know the difference between 3D modelling and VR and all of that flim flam- stop spoiling Bill’s moment. What Bill had to say:

Our tour included a very cool demonstration of how researchers are using VR to examine viruses for weak spots that they could target in making a vaccine or drug. This state-of-the-art approach could lead to a universal flu vaccine—as opposed to today’s seasonal variety—and hopefully one day to an HIV vaccine.

You’re darn right it’s cool, Bill. Darn right.

He got to see their progress on HIV, Zika, and Flu viruses (the flu kills more people every year than sharks, probably) using new 3D modelling, and he is very happy to be part of that group of pioneers working to save lives. In a week or so we’ll all be wearing Oculus gear anyway, so let’s keep the pedanticary to a minimum, shall we? (For all those who clicked on the Oculus link, I am sorry for betraying your trust).


Hmm, remember when we heard about Oculus’ incredible life saving training for pediatric surgeons earlier this week (Thanks, Tech Radar, you guys rock!)? Well, it seems they aren’t the only ones to be developing this incredible idea. OSSimTech (yes you are OSSim, aren’t you?) Has been using this technology for a while. Youtube won’t let me watch the video any more (meanies), but I have an image taken earlier today of what I saw:

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Do you see him? The invisible man directly in front of that surgeon? Well that’s VR and he is going to teach you how to save lives! Or knees!

The Sim-Ortho by OSSimTech is a virtual reality training simulator to teach and train orthopedic open-surgery. As the world’s first of its kind, the Sim-Ortho simulator offers unique possibilities to expand medical education of orthopedic surgery… [It] enables simulation training of complex orthopedic procedures in knee and spine surgery as well as trauma surgery (available in 2017). Situated in a highly realistic 3D environment with detailed imaging, the trainee practices “hands-on” in a risk-free environment.

So you’re not the only one, Saur- I mean Oculus! Please let me have one of your headsets.


Next, if you keep your ear to the ground, China is kicking our collective asses in the VR arms race. So when they say that VR could improve the eyesight of children, we had best stop and pay attention:

The Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Future Visual Entertainment has been working alongside several organisations, including the Beijing Institute of Technology to study the impact of VR use on young people. Students ages between 9-12 were recruited for use in the testing, which was part of an on-campus VR experience. The results were startling to many, showing that in certain cases, use of a HMD can actually have a positive impact on eyesight, especially when compared to an equivalent amount of time using a tablet or smartphone. The researchers were led to a conclusion that HMDs with a properly designed and calibrated vision system that used high-performance system to generate the virtual images, such as a HTC Vive may even be able to correct vision.


Now I was raised to sit five feet away from the TV or feel guilty about it, so naturally I was, like, quit you’re kidding, BAIC. But apparently there is precedence. Take the curious case of Mr. James Blaha, co-founder of Vivid Vision, whose 2D vision was remarkably cured by playing a lot of Oculus Rift (see, Zuck, I did you a solid).

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Blaha has lived with amblyopia and strabismus, also known as lazy eye and crossed eyes, for most of his life, and that’s what prompted him to found Vivid Vision, a virtual-reality vision therapy game company. The games are played using Oculus Rift and send specific images to each eye in an effort to train the lazy or crossed eye to work harder.

Hmmm, well maybe there is something to it after all?



Not same monks- these dudes just look really cool. Right, Bill?

And Spiritual well being as well!

In a Buddhist tech conference [there is nothing about that sentence that phrase that is not awesome], Pali Canon talks about developing a game to help achieve inner peace. They are focused on … transitory shifts: creating transformative experiences, training the mind to meditate, and building calm. More samadhi [concentration] than panna [wisdom], in the terms of the Pali Canon….

“My intention is to facilitate a temporary experience of the cessation of mental processes and identification with those mental processes,” explained Robin Arnott, creator of the game SoundSelf.

Ok, how can you cease to have and identify with a mental process all at once? I could use some SoundSelf right about now; my brain hurts.


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On an optimistic note, trials are ongoing in Orlando with senior suffering from dementia to see if VR relieves their distress.

Encore at Avalon Park is the third senior residence in the country to test the virtual-reality system created by MyndVR, a Dallas start-up whose partners are Samsung and the University of Texas at Dallas. All 89 residents will have a chance to try the 360-degree experience, but only 16 will participate in the four-week field trial — eight with dementia and eight without.

Nothing has been conclusively proven yet except that VR is a great way to spend an afternoon in a retirement home.


So that’s our first instalment of Weekly Things! If all is well next week, expect more of the same on a different topic. Until then, may your Virtual Reality dreams come true in Real Reality. Cheers!