I am not looking forward to this upcoming week. I have three midterms over the span of two days, and honestly, my exam schedule strongly reminds me of the much-dreaded finals week. It is during times like these that I wish I could get away from it all and perhaps head back to the comforts of my home in Singapore. Of course, given the 30-hour journey and steep airfares, that is not a viable option. It is 2016, however, and I could use virtual reality to change my surroundings without having to get out of bed.
Virtual reality allows its users to interact with a world that is wholly artificial, and due to high- tech wiring, makes the experience seem authentic and life-like. Many of us probably came to know of virtual reality due to Oculus Rift, a system that brings the concept of virtual reality to life. Although it is a multipurpose operating system, many focus on Oculus Rift’s usefulness while playing games. Admittedly, it is neat that you can enter into the world of “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” but virtual reality creates several other avenues in addition to changing the gaming empire. For instance, according to VentureBeat, a Swiss startup recently discovered ways to use virtual reality as a means to help stroke victims.
Switzerland-based MindMaze aims to combine neuroscience with virtual reality hardware to speed up the recovery process of stroke victims, VentureBeat reported. Many patients lose the ability to control parts of their body after surviving a stroke.
Let’s take the example of a patient who has lost control over her left arm. After wearing the virtual reality vision glasses, the patient would be able to see a simulation of her left arm moving when she moves her right one. Just the visual of seeing her left arm move would potentially be enough to provide the brain with an indication to try and actually regain control over the left arm. Tricking the brain into seeing something occur, even though it is not happening in real time, is often enough to expedite improvements.
The movie “Her” gave me my first visual of the role virtual reality could possibly play in our lives. The public’s interest in virtual reality grew because of the role it would play in upgrading the gaming experience, but it is incredible to know that the brains at MindMaze were able to think outside the box and find a use for this high-tech system in the health care sector. In fact, augmented reality is a weird concept — one might consider it a means to simply postpone dealing with the actual reality of your life, and that definitely isn’t healthy. But the mere fact that it is able to give hope to patients who never imagined being able to recuperate from partial paralysis is amazing.
I have read several articles and Facebook posts that point out how far behind the world is in comparison to the futuristic view that “Back to the Future” provided us with. Yes, we don’t have flying cars and suspended skateboards — no, the hoverboards we have don’t actually count as hoverboards — but our technological innovations have jumped leaps and bounds. I am pretty sure we can forego roaming around on flying boards for a revolution that actually helps patients restore and repair their bodies.