For many, virtual reality conjures images of gaming and entertainment, but it’s also making waves in healthcare.
Sergeant Jon Warren is standing in an Iraqi street market when a car suddenly explodes about one hundred feet ahead of him, and panic ensues. Later, he sits in an armoured vehicle on a long desert road while distant enemies bombard him with gunfire.
His experience is entirely virtual, of course – Warren is in fact sitting safely inside the University of Southern California, using a Virtual Reality (VR) headset. He is repeatedly re-living the moment in 2010 when, during his tour of Iraq with the US army, his squad was hit by a roadside bomb which left him seriously injured and psychologically traumatised. VR exposure treatment, which aims to reduce the fear of traumatic memories by allowing patients to re-live them again and again, is now widely used in the US to treat soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), said Albert ‘Skip’ Rizzo, the award-winning clinical psychologist who pioneered the treatment several years ago.
Rizzo’s method is just one of many expanding uses of VR in healthcare, with doctors and developers predicting that in coming years the technology will be used to treat Alzheimer’s, to ease fear of spiders, to train surgeons, and much more. A widely-discussed Goldman Sachs report on VR published last year forecast healthcare as the second most significant beneficiary of the coming VR revolution (behind gaming), predicting that medical VR will be worth $5.1bn (£4.3bn) by 2025.
Image pulled from original article.
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