COVID-19 sparks continued demand for virtual reality

Virtual reality has long been a go-to tool for scientists and gamers, but remote work, online education, and isolation due to COVID-19 have demonstrated its value to others.

The rapidly growing field has moved beyond labs and games and is finding its way into areas ranging from entertainment to healthcare.

Lynsey Steinberg, certified medical illustrator and virtual reality expert at Augusta University, said virtual reality is becoming a valuable way to teach empathy and perspective across a wide range of industries.

“So in medicine, imagining the perspective of an Alzheimer’s patient or experiencing what it might be like for families in palliative care. These are all things we are working on here at the university,” she said. “Our College of Nursing is doing a simulation of empathetic care with the Center for Instructional Innovation. We call it “Project LIVE”, Learning through interprofessional virtual experiences. And that changes education as we know it.

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Steinberg said they have a team focusing on K-12 students, working with the community and school leaders, to develop interactive opportunities for so-called “bridging classes,” lessons that have a high dropout or failure rate.

“What we chose to focus on is anatomy and physiology. So working with schools in our local community, we can work with biology, or schools that maybe have dissection. Dissection can be difficult as they don’t always have funds for all the dissecting frogs. Virtual reality opens the door to anatomy dissection, or just anatomy apps where they can learn. We are starting a successful student journey to learn even better, more engaging, and then bringing more growth, more opportunities for students right here on their journey to college at AU,” she said. .

At an Adobe Max conference, Steinberg saw a presentation by a man who used virtual reality to sculpt toys that he 3D printed and sold as a business.

She pitched the idea to art studio technician Brian McGrath, from the art and design department at Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

“That’s a cool prospect. As artists, we live in this fantasy world, but then we create these objects that come back to reality. It was a much bigger step in this area and we get to work in this fantasy world and not just our real world,” McGrath said. “We are seeing more and more students getting into this digital fabrication with 3D printers. And now sculpting in VR. I think our faculty is getting more and more excited about it too. And we’re the kind of group of people that once we see a student pique an interest, we deliver whatever we can in front of them,”

Steinberg said the use of virtual reality is growing in factories, warehouses and the automotive industry, as well as in multiple fields of study in college.

Junior Henry McCarter of Augusta University uses virtual reality to sculpt. Photo courtesy of Kevin Faigle.

Junior Henry McCarter was one of the students to board.

“I like to try new things. I think it helps my practice since I am a ceramist. I think it kind of opens my eyes to new forms, new forms and new possibilities. I might do something here that I want to replicate on the wheel every time I spin. Sometimes I can do exactly what I’m doing here. I think it helps me with my art,” he said.

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Steinberg said virtual reality is becoming more available and affordable for people to use at home. Prices range from $300 to $700, depending on the type of helmet you purchase.

“If you don’t have it, you can just buy something like Google Cardboard, where you can actually put your phone inside one of those Google Cardboards and build it yourself,” he said. she declared. “Almost everyone has a phone in every household and you can enjoy most virtual reality experiences. Let’s say YouTube videos. You put that in a Google Cardboard, so you can put your phone there and experience it .

The Google Cardboard app is available for iPhone and Android mobile phones. Cardboard is available for purchase at: for just $9. This site also contains instructions on how to build a device at home.

Dana Lynn McIntyre is a general assignment reporter for Augusta’s Press. Join her at [email protected]

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