From gaming and entertainment to professional training and education, the increasing affordability and accessibility of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies are revolutionizing how we interact with digital content and unlocking new avenues of innovation that were otherwise impossible.
Companies such as Meta are investing over $10B annually in VR and AR platforms—the latter integrates digital information such as 3D models, text, or images into the user’s existing surroundings as opposed to creating a wholly computer-generated environment—to meet the rising demand for immersive experiences.
But this revolution isn’t locked into entertainment: In fact, healthcare and education are leading the charge for early adoption and integration across all sectors—and for proof, one need look no further than training where more than 70% of medical students prefer augmented learning over traditional approaches.
Here are a few fascinating examples of this innovation in action.
- Augusta University. At Augusta University, nursing professors teamed up with the Center for Instructional Innovation to create six immersive end-of-life VR scenes that students can explore using Oculus VR headsets. They filmed the scenes with a 360-degree camera, enlisted students and staff as actors, and employed visual and audio effects to mimic realistic end-of-life situations. After a successful trial with eight master’s degree students, the College of Nursing integrated the simulations into their palliative care nursing course. Students use ten computers and four Oculus VR headsets to learn empathetic communication skills and practice relevant phrases before diving into the fifteen-minute VR scenarios. Faculty members watch the students and later discuss their experiences, preparing them to handle real-life situations with more confidence, empathy, and deeper understanding.
- Purdue University. During the pandemic, the Purdue University global online nursing program partnered with a third-party vendor to create immersive simulations that allow students to expand their skills remotely. With the help of Oculus VR headsets and a user-friendly app, students saw a boost in confidence through personalized experiences while enjoying greater flexibility in their learning. The program has now expanded simulative lessons to cover almost seventy skills, AI-powered VR simulations for patient evaluations, and community healthcare assessments. As a result, students have become far more adept at their skills through ample at-home practice.
- New York University. New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine harnesses VR and AR technologies to offer students innovative ways to visualize and learn about the human body. Manager of immersive computing at the Institute for Innovations in Medical Education, Greg Dorsainville, explains that while cadavers are still available for examination, students now use VR and AR for dissection as part of their curriculum. They can access digitized versions of body parts, animations, and other resources anytime, anywhere, including 3D models of the brain and other organs to better understand their spatial relationships and visualize the body. The medical school has 20 VR headsets on campus—including the Lenovo Varjo, Oculus Quest 2, and HTC Vive—so students can access VR experiences and 3D models on devices like computers, tablets, and smartphones at will. This collective effort, Dorsainville says, is essential to “meet our learners where they are.”
The primary factor driving this mass adoption and digital preference?
No longer is quality medical training bound by geography, patient accessibility, or resources.
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