St. Al's researches look to use virtual reality

Posted at 7:39 AM, Dec 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-18 09:39:43-05

Researchers at St. Alphonsus are testing virtual reality technology for innovative medical uses.

The Oculus Rift is a headset that plays back virtual worlds and responds to the movement of the user. It's drawn a lot of attention in the gaming industry, but folks at St. Alphonsus hospital are looking to use it in the medical field.

"We are creating an immersive experience so those people who may be going through the hospital, may be going through cancer treatment, may be going through different parts of our treatment process are able to be somewhere else,” said spokesman and team leader Josh Schlaich. “So they can take their mind off of the pain. They can take their mind off the treatment they're receiving at that time."

With the help of virtual reality, a trip to the ER could turn into a calm day at the beach. Someone suffering a panic attack could escape to a quiet meadow.

Using a special 360-degree camera, hospital workers can capture just about any setting. Schlaich says the technology could extend to medical training.

"We see future applicability to bringing this sort of technology, having our employees wear this sort of technology and putting them through situations that they may experience on a regular basis in order to hone their expertise," he said.

The concept is in its early stages. Schlaich is hoping to get a government grant to study the effect of using virtual reality therapy.

"We practice evidence-based medicine. So we have to make sure everything works, number one, and number two, that it is based in research," he said.

The Oculus Rift is prepped to hit stores in just a few months with an expected price tag of $350. Schlaich thinks it will still be a few years but soon believes hospitals around the country will use virtual goggles.