Virtual reality is one of those technologies that is making its way into areas that were not even considered only a few years ago. Virtual reality has been mostly promoted for the entertainment and gaming industries. Now it appears that virtual reality may have a use in the medical field.
In a show of creative thinking, three graduate students have created a virtual reality program being used in France to relax patients and increase their tolerance of pain. The mind is a powerful thing and that power is used by this virtual reality program to transport patients to other simulated places and by doing so make them more able to tolerate minor but painful procedures.
The procedure involves patients putting on a pair of goggles which transport them into a three-dimensional world that features Japanese Zen gardens or snow-covered hillsides. This peaceful environment has a tendency of making the patient more tolerant of minor but painful procedures such as having a cut stitched, a burn treated, or even having a dislocated shoulder popped back into place.
The projects main objective is to offer patients a technique to distract their attention and curb their pain and anxiety when being treated in the emergency room. Many believe that this technology will progress to the point that it will become the norm and will be used in hospitals routinely.
Researchers have been looking for alternative to pain relief drugs for a long time. Drugs can be dangerous and unpredictable, and many people are allergic to certain drugs which is always a potential problem.
The company developing this product is called “Healthy Mind” which is a startup. Healthy Mind has won a $20,000 prize from a University in Adelaide, Australia. The University will now pay for the three founders to present their project at Microsoft’s headquarters in the U.S. city of Seattle.