Role of Immersive (XR) Technologies in Improving Healthcare Competencies: A Review

Role of Immersive (XR) Technologies in Improving Healthcare Competencies: A Review

Prabha Susy Mathew, Anitha S. Pillai
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1796-3.ch002
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Immersive technology refers to technology that enhances reality by blending the physical environment with virtual content or by completely taking the user to a virtual world far away from reality. Different immersive technologies are augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). As immersive technology is becoming more affordable, user-friendly, pervasive, and ubiquitous, it's been adopted and embraced by several industries. Though its early adopters were from the gaming industry, now it's explored and used by many other industries such as mining, healthcare, and medicine, retail, education, automotive, manufacturing, etc. Using these technologies, medical professionals can improve their competencies, and they will be able to effectively transfer the skill acquired through simulations to the operation theatre. This chapter focuses on uses, benefits, and adoption challenges of Immersive technologies with specific reference to healthcare training.
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Immersive Technologies

Immersive technology refers to technology that provide users with an experience of immersing oneself in simulated world that users can interact with. Immersive technology or extended reality (XR) is a term used for collectively referring technologies such as AR, VR and MR each of these have some key differences. (Reality Technologies, n.d.) The AR, VR ecosystem can be largely classified in to components, Head Mounted Devices (HMD) and Applications (Goldman Sachs, 2016). The Landscape for Immersive technology is as indicated in Figure1.

Virtual reality refers to fully immersive virtual world environment which substitutes the real world. An important pieces of virtual reality kit are the VR Head-Mounted Device (HMD) which is the similar to glasses and may or may not require a PC/Smartphone/Console to power the content being produced. The tethered VR headset / HMD needs to be connected to a PC via cable for the VR experience, while untethered does not require a PC or a console to be connected as it has in-built processor, memory, battery, sensor, display etc. The Virtual learning experience is enhanced, when the VR HMD is worn along with Headphones, special gloves, tracking devices and other optional devices such as bio controller. The HMD has several sensors to aptly simulate the visual, aural and haptic senses of the user through sensory feedback integrated with the output devices. (Oluleke & Xuming, 2013). The three categories of VR based on the level of immersion they provide are: Non-immersive simulations which is the least immersive technology achieved using conventional desktop, Semi-immersive simulations give user a partial immersive experience using High performance computing systems and Fully immersive simulations give user fully immersive experience through HMD and tracking devices. Some of the VR headsets used are Occulus Rift, Occulus Go, HTC Vive, PlayStation, Google Daydream and Cardboard, Samsung Gear, Lenevo Mirage solo (Greenwald, 2018). (Bhone, 2019) in their systematic review, assessed the effectiveness of VR interventions for education of Health Professionals. They found evidence showing a small improvement in knowledge and moderate-to-large improvement in skills of learners taking part in VR interventions compared to traditional or other forms of digital learning. For VR HMD, trackers (head, motion, eye) and sensors with modern graphic processing unit (GPU) will give learners better immersive experience (Hamacher, Kim, Cho, Pardeshi. Lee, Eun & Whangbo., 2016) However they found VR has few challenges such as lack of accurate head-tracking and motion sickness experienced by users.

Figure 1.

Immersive technology landscape


Key Terms in this Chapter

Extended Reality (XR): It refers to a continuum, which combines all real and virtual world environments. It encompasses virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies to provide users a better immersive experience.

Immersive Technology: It refers to technology that enables users to interact with simulated environments and objects, blurring the line between the real world and the digital world. It covers a range of technologies such as AR, VR, MR.

Mixed Reality (MR): It brings together real and digital environments that co-exist and interact with each other to produce new environment which allows user to immerse in the world around while interacting with the virtual world.

Augmented Reality (AR): It is a technology that blends the user’s view of real world with digital information on top of it, to provide the user an enhanced version of reality.

Virtual Reality (VR): It is a technology that creates a simulated environment that can be similar or completely different from the user’s environment. The VR headset gives the user a fully immersive visual experience.

Head Mounted Display (HMD): It is a computer display system that is mounted on a helmet or a set of goggles.

Marker Based Augmented Reality: It is a term used to represent an AR application that needs prior knowledge of a user's environment to identify/ locate part of real world that needs to be augmented. This is achieved by placing a marker in the real world where the digital image must overlay.

Haptics: It refers to the technology that uses tactile (touch) sensation to interact with the computer applications in order to improve user experience.

Markerless Augmented Reality: It is a term used to represent an AR application that does not need prior knowledge of a user's environment to identify/ locate part of real world that needs to be augmented and hold it to a fixed point in space. it is also known as location-based AR. It functions using such technologies as GPS, accelerometer, digital compass and SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping technology).

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