Virtual reality has long been seen as a gaming technology, with early attempts promising to usher in a new era of immersive gameplay. Like many new technologies, it couldn’t deliver, and the public interest quickly evaporated.
Lately, though, virtual reality has experienced something of a comeback. The VR startup, Oculus VR, whose Oculus Rift headset garnered interest from prominent industry figures such as John Carmack, was acquired by Facebook in February for around $2bn. Sony is working on its own headset dubbed Project Morpheus. Leap Motion and Samsung are also working on headsets.
One exciting application of virtual reality is surgical training. The MOVEO Foundation recently funded a research project which showed the potential of the technology. A live operation that was captured on video camera was able to be interacted with an Oculus Rift headset. Users were able to look around the surgical environment as if they were actually there.
Rémi Rousseau, a French engineer and VR enthusiast who conceived the project, noting on his blog that “The advantages conferred by being able to train novice personnel in a low- to no-risk simulated environment have long been appreciated by the medical community.”
VR headsets are affordable (£200/$350) pieces of equipment that will soon have support for smartphones. While not intended for medical training use, the innovative project shows how technology can be used in exciting ways when we think outside of the box.