Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) Transforming Medical Applications

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) Transforming Medical Applications

Copyright: © 2023 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/979-8-3693-0876-9.ch020
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Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) technologies have emerged as transformative tools in the field of medical applications, revolutionizing healthcare practices and transforming the way medical professionals and patients engage with healthcare environments. This book chapter provides an in-depth exploration of the diverse range of applications where VR/AR is being utilized to enhance medical training, patient care, surgical planning, rehabilitation, and mental health treatments. It explores how VR/AR technologies are being leveraged to improve medical education and training, enabling healthcare professionals to practice complex procedures in realistic virtual environments. This book chapter also provides a comprehensive overview of the transformative role of VR/AR in medical applications. From education and training to patient care, surgical planning, rehabilitation, and mental health treatments, VR/AR technologies offer exciting possibilities to enhance healthcare delivery, improve patient outcomes, and shape the future of medicine.
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1. Introduction

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are cutting-edge technologies that have transcended the boundaries of entertainment and gaming, finding profound applications in the field of medicine. These immersive technologies offer transformative experiences, allowing healthcare professionals and patients to interact with medical data and simulations in ways previously unimagined. VR immerses users in entirely computer-generated environments, while AR enhances the real world with digital overlays and information. In medicine, these technologies have paved the way for innovative solutions in education, training, diagnostics, treatment, and patient care (Khang & Abdullayev et al., 2024).

1.1 Definition and Distinction: Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are two distinct but closely related immersive technologies that have made significant inroads into various industries, including healthcare. To understand their applications in medicine, it's essential to distinguish between these two concepts:

1.1.1 Virtual Reality (VR)

VR is a technology that creates a completely artificial, computer-generated environment in which users can immerse themselves. It is designed to replace the real world entirely with a simulated one. VR typically involves the use of a head-mounted display (HMD) or goggles that cover the user's field of vision, blocking out the physical surroundings entirely. Users can interact with this artificial environment through specialized input devices such as hand controllers or gloves.

In healthcare, VR has found applications in medical training and education, particularly in surgical simulation. It allows medical professionals and students to practice procedures and surgeries in a risk-free virtual environment. VR can also be used for pain management and therapy, creating calming and immersive experiences for patients (Rani & Chauhan et al., 2021).

1.1.2 Augmented Reality (AR)

AR, on the other hand, augments the real world with digital information and virtual elements. Unlike VR, AR does not replace the physical environment but overlays digital content onto it. AR is typically experienced through a device like a smartphone or tablet, or through smart glasses, which allow users to see both the real world and digital information simultaneously (Anh & Vladimir et al., 2024).

In medicine, AR has been used for various purposes, including medical imaging and diagnostics. Surgeons can use AR to enhance their view during procedures by overlaying patient data, such as CT scans, directly onto the surgical field. AR can also assist in medical training by providing real-time guidance and information to medical professionals.

Figure 1.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)


1.1.3 Distinction

The key distinction between VR and AR lies in how they interact with the real world. VR immerses users entirely in a virtual environment, while AR enhances the real world by adding digital elements. Both technologies have unique advantages and are applicable in different medical scenarios, from training and education to diagnosis and treatment. Understanding this distinction is crucial when exploring their potential in healthcare (Khang & Vugar et al., 2024).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Telesurgery: A surgical procedure performed by a surgeon at a remote location using robotic technology and high-speed communication networks to control surgical instruments and perform the operation on a patient located at a different physical site. It enables expert surgeons to conduct surgeries on patients in distant or inaccessible areas, improving access to specialized medical care.

Virtual Reality (VR): A technology that creates a computer-generated immersive environment, allowing users to interact with and experience a three-dimensional digital world as if it were real.

Augmented Reality (AR): A technology that overlays computer-generated content, such as images, videos, or information, onto the real-world environment, enhancing the user's perception of their surroundings by blending digital and physical elements.

Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs): Wearable devices that users place over or attach to their head to experience immersive digital content. They typically consist of screens or lenses that display computer-generated visuals directly in front of the user's eyes, providing an immersive and interactive virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) experience.

Mixed Reality (MR): A technology that blends elements of both Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to create a merged environment where digital and physical objects coexist and interact in real-time. MR allows users to see and interact with computer-generated information and objects overlaid onto the real world, creating a seamless blend of physical and virtual experiences.

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