Virtual reality, in short, is defined as an experience that gives users the sense that they are inside a 3-Dimensional environment. This feeling is described as “presence” and is the key to virtual reality. Even though it seems to only recently be increasing in importance and popularity, virtual reality is far from a novel phenomenon. In fact, as early as 1956, a company called Sensorama created the first multisensory, arcade-style virtual reality environment. Since then, the technology behind virtual reality has evolved from an exorbitantly expensive, stationary and impractical “cool thing” into a cost-effective, highly mobile and complementary solution to the influx of technology being utilized in today’s rapidly evolving healthcare industry.
Medical applications for virtual reality include everything from immersive learning platforms for nurses and doctors, to surgical simulations, to proven therapeutic methods for treating a variety of neurological and psychological disorders.
Virtual Reality Therapy for Burn Pain
When engaged in the virtual reality game “Snow World” the amount of time patients spent thinking about their pain “dropped from 76% without SnowWorld to 22% with SnowWorld.” It is important to keep in mind that the quality and capabilities of virtual reality therapy have improved dramatically since SnowWorld was created in 2008, therefore, the effectiveness of similar therapies today are likely to be even more significant.
Autistic Children Conquer Their Fears and Phobias with Virtual Reality
By immersing autistic children in a virtual environment and slowly introducing exposure to their phobia triggers, 8 out of 9 children decreased their fear and 5 out of 9 conquered their fear entirely.
Doctors Use Virtual Reality to Help Children Distract from the Pain of Cancer
Although not technically Virtual Reality, the principle still applies. Undergoing chemotherapy infusions can be a laborious and tiresome task for a child stricken with cancer. To help ease this part of the process, doctors at Children’s Hospital of Orange County have given kids the chance to escape to anywhere they choose providing a healthy and engaging distraction.