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The Extreme Medical Future of Virtual and Augmented Reality

by Beth Divine 18 Apr 2019

The medical applications of scientific innovation sometimes takes a while to be fully understood and appreciated. This is almost certainly the case with virtual reality and augmented reality. While at present, these media have no near magic capabilities with which to aid diagnoses, all one has to do is look at forty or fifty years ago to see just how much can change in such a relatively short time – now apply that forward: what miraculous changes will we see in that time? (Almost certainly not the jet pack, which we have been promised for decades but that is still at best a plaything, useful only for having fun on water, rather than the speedy and quiet commuter vehicle that we anticipated on the backs of cutting edge cartoons like the Jetsons!)

But now combine x-ray technology (or something other form of internal imaging that is not harmful to the body, one that can view the internal workings of a living body without harming or penetrating it) combined with augmented reality headsets. Paramedics and EMTs could pop their literal ‘x-ray specs’ on, and know for certain whether a patient can safely be moved or whether they should be braced sturdily to prevent worsening injury. Doctors could pop them on and immediately allay the fears of their patient: ‘No, Mrs Smith, it’s not bowel cancer, you have a polyp – painful and annoying, but not life-threatening,’ for example. On the other hand, you can also receive a crushing diagnosis – but this could happen very early on in the progress of the disease or condition, early enough for treatment to be put into place promptly thereby raising the odds of a good recovery.

Surgeons too could make use of augmented technology, especially if it is combined with access to millions of bytes of medical data: it will be hard to operate incorrectly when you have a vast database and computer precision guiding you to place your incisions in exactly the right place. Should something go wrong, computer processing can ‘think’ much faster than a person, quickly finding the solution and guiding the surgeon to the best outcome.