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article imageHow virtual reality is helping medicine

By Tim Sandle     Jun 1, 2017 in Technology
Virtual reality is beginning to make progress in the field of medicine. Two recent examples are helping visually impaired users navigate and with easing phantom limb pain.
The first device profiled is one designed to provides information from a 3-D camera, via vibrating motors and an electronically reconfigurable Braille interface, to help those who are visually impaired. It comes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The aim is to provide visually impaired users with more information about their environments. Part of the device fits around the stomach of the wearer. The components are:
A 3-D camera worn in a pouch hung around the neck,
A processing unit that runs specially developed algorithms,
A sensor belt equipped with five vibrating motors evenly spaced,
A reconfigurable Braille interface, worn at the user's side.
The proprietary algorithm rapidly identifies surfaces and their orientations from the 3-D-camera data and alerts the wearer by producing an audible sound.
Virtual reality: a wearable system to provide situational awareness for blind and visually impaired ...
Virtual reality: a wearable system to provide situational awareness for blind and visually impaired people.
Test are currently underway on the new system. Depending on how the tests progress the system could be used in conjunction with or as an alternative to a cane, to help those who are visually impaired navigate their environment. According to the lead technologist, Robert Katzschmann: "Having something that didn't infringe on their other senses was important. So we didn't want to have audio; we didn't want to have something around the head, vibrations on the neck -- all of those things, we tried them out, but none of them were accepted. We found that the one area of the body that is the least used for other senses is around your abdomen."
The technology was presented to the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, which took place during May 2017. A white paper was also released, titled "Enabling Independent Navigation for Visually Impaired People through a Wearable Vision-Based Feedback System."
The second medical related virtual reality technology is designed to relieve the sensation of phantom limb pain. In a new study virtual reality technology can 'fool' the amputee’s brain into thinking that it is still in control of a missing limb. According to Aalborg University scientists many amputees feel pain at the site of a lost limb. This is thought to be neurological, how the brain is reacting to the lack of input from the severed neural cords. To overcome this, the researchers have demonstrated how virtual reality headsets and programs can be used to create an experience of the lost limb being present in a three dimensional world. Here the patient can move around freely, grab things and interact with them.
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