The Scope

Video: A six-year-old overcomes the trauma of an injection thanks to a virtual reality distraction

Medical researchers are using virtual reality to treat phobias, PTSD and to even train surgeons.

Tears, anxiety, pain. Going to the doctor to get an injection can mean all this for a child, and sometimes for the hapless parent too. Infants do not often remember the pain from an injection but toddlers and older children very often come to associate visits to doctors with the unpleasant jab. The trauma of childhood injections is so common that websites that dispense with medical or parenting advice all have a column dedicated to how to deal with a child’s fear of needles.

Periodic shots for vaccinations are bad enough but what if a child has haemophilia and needs to be stuck with a needle every few days for blood infusions? Clinicians at an Ohio hospital, who have seen hundreds of paediatric haemophilic patients and their parents struggle through the experience, are now witnessing a welcome change. All that is needed was a little virtual reality.

Haemophilic children at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus have been enrolled in a pilot study that is testing how a virtual reality game can keep patients engaged while they receive their shots or transfusions. The game called Voxel Bay has been specifically created for children and has been developed by the hospital’s haemophilia team and students from the Ohio State University's Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design.

Here is six-year-old Brady Bowman using the virtual reality headset that has been designed to be disposable and lightweight to enter Voxel Bay’s immersive environment of penguins, pirates and hermit crabs. Most importantly, the headset is hands-free to enable the necessary medical procedure.

Play

There has been a lot of hype about virtual reality for many years but until recently, real life applications of virtual worlds have been elusive. But now companies life Google and Facebook are investing heavily in virtual reality. Google has a simple cardboard headset called Google Cardboard that allows 360 video and very simple virtual reality and now has come up with the more advanced Daydream. Facebook bought Oculus VR , the company that created the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, in 2014.

While virtual reality is raising the bar in gaming and move making, medical researchers are making use of the investment and interest in the technology to look look at wider applications medicine resulting in a sudden surge in medical virtual reality application – at least in experimental stages. The University of Southern California has a Medical Virtual Reality group that studies and develops virtual reality simulations to be used in psychology, medicine, neuroscience and physical and occupational therapy. The group has a special on virtual reality for mental heath therapy, motor and cognitive skill rehabilitation and clinical skill training. For example, the group has developed virtual patients for rookie doctors and clinicians to practice and improve their skills without the risk of harming a human being in need of medical help. They are also using virtual reality to help treat soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Play

Medical researchers are working on virtual reality simulations to treat phobias like a fear of heights or a fear of spiders. Others are developing virtual reality tools that can help patients, especially children, too get used to hospital environments even before they are admitted so that they are not intimidated by being in a hospital. Software developers in Canada are also creating interactive virtual spaces to help surgeons train for complex operations. The technology allows a surgeon to be in a virtual operating room and connects the surgeon’s real hands to the virtual reality version of the doctor so that the doctor can actually run through the movements of an entire surgery. Take a look at Mashable News’ report on the experiment.

Play
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Watch Ruchir's journey: A story that captures the impact of accessible technology

Accessible technology has the potential to change lives.

“Technology can be a great leveller”, affirms Ruchir Falodia, Social Media Manager, TATA CLiQ. Out of the many qualities that define Ruchir as a person, one that stands out is that he is an autodidact – a self-taught coder and lover of technology.

Ruchir’s story is one that humanises technology - it has always played the role of a supportive friend who would look beyond his visual impairment. A top ranker through school and college, Ruchir would scan course books and convert them to a format which could be read out to him (in the absence of e-books for school). He also developed a lot of his work ethos on the philosophy of Open Source software, having contributed to various open source projects. The access provided by Open Source, where users could take a source code, modify it and distribute their own versions of the program, attracted him because of the even footing it gave everyone.

That is why I like being in programming. Nobody cares if you are in a wheelchair. Whatever be your physical disability, you are equal with every other developer. If your code works, good. If it doesn’t, you’ll be told so.

— Ruchir.

Motivated by the objectivity that technology provided, Ruchir made it his career. Despite having earned degree in computer engineering and an MBA, friends and family feared his visual impairment would prove difficult to overcome in a work setting. But Ruchir, who doesn’t like quotas or the ‘special’ tag he is often labelled with, used technology to prove that differently abled persons can work on an equal footing.

As he delved deeper into the tech space, Ruchir realised that he sought to explore the human side of technology. A fan of Agatha Christie and other crime novels, he wanted to express himself through storytelling and steered his career towards branding and marketing – which he sees as another way to tell stories.

Ruchir, then, migrated to Mumbai for the next phase in his career. It was in the Maximum City that his belief in technology being the great leveller was reinforced. “The city’s infrastructure is a challenging one, Uber helped me navigate the city” says Ruchir. By using the VoiceOver features, Ruchir could call an Uber wherever he was and move around easily. He reached out to Uber to see if together they could spread the message of accessible technology. This partnership resulted in a video that captures the essence of Ruchir’s story: The World in Voices.

Play

It was important for Ruchir to get rid of the sympathetic lens through which others saw him. His story serves as a message of reassurance to other differently abled persons and abolishes some of the fears, doubts and prejudices present in families, friends, employers or colleagues.

To know more about Ruchir’s journey, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Uber and not by the Scroll editorial team.