Extended Reality in Healthcare Simulation

Extended Reality in healthcare simulation has greatly benefited from advanced innovation in digital, especially after COVID-19. Extended Reality, known more simply as “XR”, is umbrella terminology which includes all immersive technologies that “extend” the traditional learning experience through immersive interaction. Mixed reality (MX) simulation, virtual reality (VR) simulation, and augmented reality (AR) simulation together have presented new and innovative ways for learners and professionals to be immersed in training scenarios and thereby increase their knowledge and skills, all of which fall under the banner of XR.

XR healthcare education is made possible through a number of technology mediums such as: applications, headsets, online scenarios, and more. XR devices can be MR, VR or AR and all can be used for a variety of software and educational techniques. These technology mediums provide lifelike training environments for learners to supplement physical or manikin based clinical simulation.

XR platforms are able to reframe how medical learners are taught to understand complex concepts and actions including surgery and procedures. Prices of XR based technology continue to drop and more companies have started to develop XR solutions. Possibilities are steadily increasing for universities, medical facilities, and all others dependent on clinical simulation to provide healthcare education.

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XR technology is considered beneficial for many reasons to learners. XR based technology is beneficial because they are able to be used in any location and at any time with specialized software and hardware. This can assist to increase equity into healthcare simulation based education programs across the globe. The technology is often reusable and reduces the costs to educate numerous learners over periods of time.

XR Technology Medium Definition Breakdowns

Augmented Reality (AR) Simulation: AR is a type of XR used to transition the learner’s real world environment through the use of digital overlays. AR can assist to increase fidelity of physical based healthcare simulation. For example: AR can be helpful to enhance realism or moulage with the ability to visually demonstrate visual cues that manikins may not be able to provide such as rashes.

Virtual Reality (VR) Simulation: VR is a type of XR based healthcare simulation that often uses a VR headset to allow users to interact with a digital world. VR is a fully immersive and simulated environment. Learners are often an avatar within a virtual environment in VR, yet despite the gamification element can be an extraordinarily transformative educational experience in the healthcare simulation environment. Several studies report that VR medical simulations improve learning ability and increase accuracy in actual medical practice.

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Mixed Reality (MR) Simulation: This type of XR incorporates both physical environments and objects and virtual content and components. MR can include a combination of headset based XR medium as well as a physical manikin or in person clinical simulation.

There are a number of emerging communities and associations in regards to XR in healthcare simulation based environments. International Virtual Reality Healthcare Association is an association which disseminates literature and information in regards to VR in healthcare. IVRHA hosts international conferences and also has membership subscriptions. The American Medical Extended Reality Association AMXRA is a medical society which aims to advance the science and practice of medical extended reality. AMXRA has a mission to advance science and practice of medical extended reality through the advancement of clinical care delivery, scientific investigation, innovation, education, advocacy, and community.

View the HealthySimulation.com LEARN CE/CME Platform Webinar An Open Educational Resource on Virtual Simulation: A Free Educator’s Toolkit to learn more!

Companies that Provide Extended Reality Based Products for Healthcare Simulation

HTC Vive: HTC VIVE gives professionals a life-like VR experience. With the use of a headset and wireless controllers, clinical learners can explore and interact with VR experiences, apps and games. From AAA games to unforgettable experiences, there are over 2500 apps and games available for VIVE. Their VIVE XR Elite headset was the “Most awarded VR headset of CES and MWC 2023”, and provides a powerful, convertible, and lightweight headset that conforms to the wearer. Users can enjoy untethered freedom of all-in-one XR or harness the power of PC VR.

Sony: Sony has had previews of a new “spatial content creation” system which will be released in late 2024. The VR headset is designed for users to edit and shape 3D models. The headset also has a unique pair of controllers. The VR headset is powered by Snapdragon XR2 Plus Gen 2 platform and outfitted with 4K OLED displays. The Sony VR headset is not for gamers as the PlayStation VR is. The front part of the headset flips up to let users switch between virtual and physical spaces.

Apple Vision Pro: Apple Vision Pro blends digital content through VR goggles with the users physical space. Find a way around the Apple Vision Pro with eyes, hands, and voice. Interaction designed for spatial computing. Apple vision pro is built on the foundation of macOS, iOS, and iPadOS, visionOS and has powerful spatial experiences. Control of the Apple Vision Pro is able to occur with eyes, hands, and voice. Spatial experiences on Apple Vision Pro are possible through groundbreaking Apple technology.

Microsoft Hololens: The Microsoft Hololens 2 assists healthcare teams to work securely and enhance patient treatment with a proven reduction in time to care. HoloLens 2 assists health professionals connect with remote experts, and also be able to pull up patient data. The Microsoft Hololens 2 goes beyond x-rays to visibility of MRI images in 3D in the goggles at the point of care. The Microsoft Hololens 2 is a fantastic utility for pre-surgical planning and education for both staff and families in healthcare facilities.

Valve: Valve Index VR headset offers high quality lenses in the VR headset which offers sharp and wide view across the eye’s full range of movement. The Valve VR headset has innovative off ear audio solutions. Any program purchased from Steam (Valve’s gaming distribution center) for a HTC Vive, HTC Vive Pro, Oculus Rift, or Windows Mixed Reality headsets will work with the Valve Index headset.

Meta Quest: The latest Meta Quest 3 VR headset uses MR to provide an immersive experience and also enable a blend of virtual elements with those in the physical world. The Quest 3 uses the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 and is based on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 flagship mobile phone. The Meta Quest 3 headset makes use of “Touch Plus” controllers which are similar in design to the controllers by Quest Pro.

Almer AR: The Almer AR headset is very compact and fits into a pocket. Almer AR headset has augmented reality in any environment without shortcuts to performance. The Almer AR headset is super light at 179 grams. The AR see through display means that the user is exposed to amazing clarity. The Almer AR headset can withstand -35C in winter and +50C temperatures in summer. There is a guaranteed robustness and Almer AR promise to replace if broken. Almer AR fits underneath helmets, over any type of glasses, and sits in place without any moving parts.

PICO 4: is a balanced VR headset which is easy to wear. The weight of the PICO 4 is evenly spaced from the front to the back. The fit is incredibly comfortable and stable for the user. There is a high capacity 5300mAh battery which lasts a significant time. The Color See Through feature means that while wearing PICO 4, only one click is required to deal with any interruptions from the real world.

Varjo: Varjo claims to be the highest-resolution virtual and mixed reality headset. Varjo XR-4 series has virtual, augmented, and mixed reality all built into the headset. Varjo claims the highest immersion of virtual and mixed reality products for VR users. Varjo headset products are currently used to train: astronauts, pilots, and nuclear power plant operators, to design cars, and to pioneer research initiatives.

Read more with an Introduction to XR Technologies in Healthcare Simulation.

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