Virtual Reality Enters the Medical Field

By now you have probably heard of virtual reality (VR), or perhaps even experienced it firsthand. VR systems range from do-it-yourself set-ups such as Google Cardboard (which uses your own smartphone) to more advanced consumer-facing headsets, such as the HTC VIVE and Oculus Rift. After experimenting with my Oculus Rift and Touch controllers, which allow you to use your hands in virtual reality, I became interested in applications of VR for medicine and health. I reached out to an early entrant in this space called Bioflight VR and had the opportunity to speak with their co-founder and chief creative officer, Rik Shorten.

How did you get involved in developing for virtual reality?

I was introduced to the first Oculus DK1 at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2013. It was then that I decided my team and I needed to create something in VR. Coming from an entertainment background, working on shows like CSI and ER, we imagined an entertainment experience. Once we started loading all the biological models that we used on these shows into stereoscopic VR, we realized there was something more valuable there than just entertainment.

Please describe what Bioflight has already created. Who have you worked with?

Bioflight is currently working on several major pilots. The first is our collaboration with Oculus and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. We’re just coming out of an alpha test on a pediatric trauma trainer. The physicians will be testing this in the hospital with residents. We also have patient behavior pilots and chronic disease state education, and we will be starting a large-scale oncology project later this year.

What opportunities do VR and augmented reality (AR) present for cardiology?

One of the first models we ever virtualized was a CT scan of a patient’s heart. We watched a complete cardiac diastole at room scale inside the HTC VIVE. The radiologists and cardiovascular specialists who have seen these early prototypes have been blown away by the potential that VR technologies represent in education, training and, most importantly, diagnosis.

Where do you see BioFlight in the next year? Next five years?

Our vision involves a foundational platform for education, training, simulation and diagnostics. We’re building tools for our partners and clients that allow for rapid onboarding into the VR and AR space. In three to five years, Bioflight will be the trusted brand that medical companies, educators, doctors and surgeons use to share and advance medical excellence around the world.


Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, Chronic Disease, Diastole, Models, Biological, Specialization, Tomography, X-Ray, User-Computer Interface, Computer User Training, Accreditation, Medicare

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