Virtual reality for better medicine

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Christian Díaz has developed a virtual reality platform which allows medical students and professionals to practise their technical skills.

Until recently, virtual reality (VR) was often seen as a new audiovisual means of revolutionising entertainment. However, other applications of this technology have also been developed including its use for training purposes. The Colombian biomedical engineer Christian Díaz is creating virtual spaces which provide medical students and professionals with a safe training environment.

His company Sim Design Colombia, the result of collaboration between EAFIT University, CES University and Pablo Tobón Uribe Hospital, focuses on creating training simulators for healthcare professionals. In a safe, virtual environment, workers can learn the latest surgical techniques. His company already offers laparoscopy and intubation simulators, but they are currently developing a medical device to be used in trauma cases.

According to this young engineer, VR “allows people to train in a suitable manner for uncommon situations”. Díaz specialises in the medical field, but also sees potential applications of this technology for those who work with dangerous substances, such as explosives. “As technological advances continue to better trick the human senses, their use will spread across many fields.”

Although these tools cannot replace real-life practice, Díaz sees great potential for VR as a means to learn certain skills: “The professionals we work with say that this technology is more than sufficient to practise certain cognitive and motor skills.”

Furthermore, this useful tool makes it possible for professionals around the world to learn similar techniques. For example, a professional in Latin America can learn from a doctor in Europe, and vice versa. With that in mind, Díaz’s team has provided a rare functionality: the platform adapts to the different internet speeds of the users who are online. In this way, specialists can continue working alongside one another without worrying about the network crashing.

This young Colombian is recognized as one of 2016’s Colombian Innovators Under 35, a distinction awarded by MIT Technology Review in Spanish. Díaz believes that “these technologies will close the gap between training in the virtual world and in the real world: this is a good example of progress.”

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