Using VR and AR for trauma and disaster

ACN's Alexander Pieri discusses the potential of VR and AR in trauma and disaster training

Tags: Augmented realityDisaster reliefITP Media Group ( Arab Emirates
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Using VR and AR for trauma and disaster Alexander Sophoclis Pieri, editor at Arabian Computer news.
By  Alexander Sophoclis Pieri Published  September 27, 2017

During my time serving as an infantryman in the army, one of the most difficult things to train for was trauma management.

In addition to basic battlefield medicine, the training also covered the safe evacuation of wounded from the field. While it was a regular drill conducted as part of our annual battle manoeuvres, the reason effective trauma management was so difficult to ingrain in troops, is due the difficulty of simulating battlefield injuries.

Even field trips to local hospitals proved ineffective as soldiers would never be exposed to the same type of injuries you'd see in the field.

The truth of it is, no matter how much practice you have on a plastic dummy, you're not going to be ready to deal with the messy reality of a real traumatic injury.

In the time that I've left the service, I'm sure improvements have been made, both with the training methods and equipment, in helping better prepare soldiers for dealing with battlefield injuries.

Just the other day, I found myself contemplating the use of virtual or augmented reality in these types of drills. It's probably something they've already started doing.

As anyone who is knowledgeable of the field of medical IT, or who was present at last year's GITEX Technology Week, both VR and augmented reality have already been adopted by the medical field, primarily as an education aids in the classroom.

However, there has been applications in real-world scenarios, such as the case with Dr Rafael Grossmann who conducted the world's first surgery utilising Google Glass back in 2013.

It's not hard to imagine taking the same concepts and technology, adapting it to simulate the different type of injuries you'd see in the field, which includes collapsed lungs, ballistic trauma, lacerations, and limb loss.

Neither is VR a wholly new concept in terms of the army. Early adoption of VR dates all the way back to the 1980s and came in the form of virtual flight simulators, which supported pilot training for aircraft, and later evolved to assist vehicle crews train on their assigned vehicle type.

VR would later be adopted to simulate combat for infantry units, and was utilised by law enforcement in some countries to run hostage rescue simulations.

So I can certainly see VR and AR being invaluable tools for training trauma, if it not already something in practice. But it doesn't have to stop there. Such technologies could also be greatly beneficial in the simulation of natural disasters.

While it is quite simple to find a volunteer for you to practice your CPR techniques on, one cannot simply conjure up an earthquake to train disaster response.

You could however, design a VR program around a collapsed building and by utilising a warehouse converted for VR, along with some well-placed props, and what you have is a training tool ideal for emergency crews.

Organisations that have large industrial or energy components, as well as a large labour force, would also probably find such technology useful. For example, staff at a nuclear power facility could use VR to simulate plant failure. This would not only help staff to react faster and more efficiently in the event of an emergency, but may also identify flaws in the system or with procedures that can be rectified immediately.

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