Both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have the very unique goal of breaking our perception of reality by incorporating technology into how we see the world, or how we perform certain tasks. For medical education, both of these relative technologies have their place in helping surgeons train, and applications are continuing to be developed every day.
It’s important to first understand the distinctions between these realities and how they are currently being used before fully implementing them into your courses.
AR vs. VR
VR has been around for a couple of decades now, with massive improvements to its technology emerging over the past five to 10 years. First developed for gamers, VR completely immerses the user into a digital world, usually through a headset or console. When done correctly, the user shouldn’t be able to distinguish what they’re seeing from actual reality, since they aren’t able to see any trace of the real world. An example of this is the Oculus Rift, which can put the operator in settings, from beach settings to sitting in front of a big-screen TV.
AR is a little newer, taking certain aspects of VR and fine-tuning them. With AR, users can still see reality, but can also see digital features incorporated into the real world. In 2016, AR hit the consumer market in a big way with Pokémon Go, where people were catching Pokémon left and right in real time, in real life. Read more on this topic from our CTO, Dr. Roger Smith.
Pushing Training into the Digital World
Medical education is no stranger to innovative technology, but with the introduction of heightened smart phone technology, consumers are not far behind. However, there is still great potential for utilizing these technologies within education and training, and many institutions have already fully adopted them. For instance, through the use of simulators, surgeons are improving patient safety and training without wasting valuable resources and personnel. Through systems and trainers from Intuitive Surgical and Mimic Technologies, simulators put surgeons in a digital world where they learn the basic skills necessary for robotic surgery.
We have even gone as far as using these simulators to test connectivity and telesurgery limits between hospitals more than a thousand miles apart. We’ve also used VR for team training, putting physicians in a virtual operating room where they must interact with avatars and use key decision-making tactics to complete a successful procedure. If you’re not yet utilizing simulators and other types of VR in your medical education courses, consider implementing VR into your next dry lab.
VR has made its entrance and is clearly here to stay, but AR has not found as many practical applications in the medical training world yet. It has exciting implications in healthcare, such as defibrillator locators and vein finders for IVs, but only select institutions have implemented it into their training programs. Once these applications are more developed, we will see greater use in its training potential. For now, you can use AR to familiarize surgeons with the technology in the training room. For instance, a surgeon could wear Google Glass during a procedure to have an accurate reading of the patient’s vital signs in their line of vision at all times, without ever having to look away from the task they’re performing.
Our medical training technology is on the cutting edge of what’s to come. As the largest medical robotics simulation center in the world, we can help you break through the vast landscape of new technologies and evaluate the training effects of each simulator. Contact us to book a tour and begin discussing how to implement these technologies into your upcoming CME courses.