Do you know the advantages of virtual reality (VR) for training professionals? Can you tell what forms the feeling of presence in this immersive environment takes? Do you know that certain technologies can be integrated into VR to enhance it? Do you have an idea of how VR can be integrated into medical training and what therapeutic purposes it can serve? Test your knowledge by answering the following five questions.
1. True or false? Of all the high-fidelity simulation technologies, VR is by far the most powerful in convincing the user’s brain that they are actually in a world of its own and in generating sensations and emotions as intense as those experienced in a real-world setting.
This is one of its most significant advantages for training professionals. However, VR has several other advantages, including being versatile and adaptive, allowing for error, being playful, and creating safe and standardized training to reproduce the conditions of complex, remote or hazardous environments. VR can even be used to complement the training of future teachers.
2. In the immersive experience that VR allows, “presence” can be defined as the authentic feeling of being in a world other than the one you are physically in. Match the following descriptions with one of the four forms of presence experienced in VR.
Presence as: personal or physical; environmental; social; action-based
A) ” I have the sensation of being there, in this virtual environment.”
B) “I am interacting with others in the same reality.”
C) “The objects in this virtual environment are real, and they respond to my actions. I interact with them effectively.”
D) “I am aware of my actions in this virtual environment and their significance. I am having an experience that will have an impact on my true reality.”
The correct associations are as follows:
A) Personal or physical. “I have the sensation of being there, in this virtual environment.”
B) Social. “I am interacting with others in the same reality.”
C) Environmental. “The objects in this virtual environment are real, and they respond to my actions. I interact with them effectively.”
D) Action-based. “I am aware of the actions I take in this virtual environment and their significance. I am having an experience that will have an impact on my true reality.”
3. What is the name of the technology that can be integrated with VR and allows the recreation of real objects and spaces in the virtual world while maintaining photorealistic qualities and life-size scales?
A) augmented reality
B) 3D printing
Photogrammetry can be defined as the science and art of extracting 3D information from 2D images. The process consists of taking superimposed photographs of an object, structure or space and converting them into 2D or 3D digital models. In other words, this means that if you have enough 2D images of an object from enough angles and with enough detail, specialized software can help you reconstruct the 3D geometry of the original object based on the information found in the 2D images.
This technology can be integrated with augmented reality as well as virtual reality and can be used for a variety of purposes, including heritage preservation and education.
To find out how to use this technology, which is more accessible than it seems, and to discover what our teams have done with two historic buildings, the Wing’s noodle factory in Montreal’s Chinatown and the Faubourg à m’lasse, consult the following articles:
4. Which of the following statements about the integration of VR into medical education is incorrect?
A) The integration of VR into medical education is intended to gradually replace the theoretical portion of classroom instruction.
B) VR can present certain notions in a much more precise, global and attractive way than more conventional media can. This is the case, for example, in anatomy lessons, where the learner can explore at will the different parts of the human body in 3D and see the metabolic processes in action.
C) VR in medical education uses, among other things, very powerful computer programs that allow specific 3D images to be obtained by merging the results of two-dimensional images from MRI machines, ultrasound scans and CT scans.
D) With respect to the simulation component, some educational objectives are best served in a real-world setting, and others do not require immersion in a complex setting.
The integration of VR in medical education is not intended to replace the theoretical part of teaching in the classroom nor to take the place of the expert teacher when their supervision is necessary. That said, in general, while hands-on learning tends to replace rote learning (when possible), the teaching of certain concepts would benefit from being transferred to VR.
For more information: The fascinating potential of VR for medical training
5. Which of the following statements regarding the therapeutic use of VR is/are correct?
A) In the directory that classifies medical devices according to their potential risk to health, VR experiences are classified as Class I, which is low risk and includes crutches, bandages and corrective eyewear.
B) In the treatment of pain, VR can only act on the fear of pain.
C) VR can be used as a physical therapy and rehabilitation tool; it can be integrated into the treatment of some psychological issues and can be used to stimulate the cognitive abilities of older people with mild cognitive impairment.
D) VR is used as an alternative to sedation or anesthesia for certain pediatric procedures that are mild to moderately painful.
A, C, and D
Regarding answer choice B:
Pain is not only a sensory experience but also a psychological, behavioural, and cognitive one that involves our emotions, mood, and attention. In an article in the official publication of Family Physicians of Canada, authors Karen Arane, MSc, Amir Behboudi, MD CCFP(EM), and Ran D. Goldman explain how virtual reality affects pain, not just the fear of it:
“The theory behind VR’s role in reducing not only anxiety but also pain is related to the limited attention span of human beings. Pain requires attention, and if some portion of that attention can be diverted (e.g., through interaction with the VR), the patient will have a slower response to emerging pain signals (Hoffman et al., 2011). Pain is detected by nociceptive receptors* located throughout the body that transmit pain signals to the central nervous system via A-δ and C fibres (Hoffman et al., 2011). Many analgesics work by interrupting the C-fiber pathway and thus influencing the way humans feel pain. Virtual reality does not interrupt pain signals but acts directly and indirectly on pain perception and reporting through attention, emotion, concentration, memory, and other senses (Gold et al., 2007).
A study using functional magnetic resonance imaging with healthy patients who used VR while exposed to a painful stimulus (thermal foot pain simulator) demonstrated a more than 50% reduction in pain-related brain activity in 5 brain areas (Hoffman et al., 2004). A study of 9 subjects aged 20-38 years compared VR simulation with opioid analgesics during thermal pain stimulation, and outcomes were measured from subjective pain reporting and functional magnetic resonance imaging (Hoffman et al., 2007). Virtual reality and opioid analgesics had very similar pain reduction results, and a combination of opioids and VR was shown to result in a significant additional reduction in pain signals (p < .01) (Hoffman et al., 2007).”
*Nociceptive receptors are the pain receptors.
Learn more: Virtual reality for pain management