Study suggests VR games may help children better cope with painful medical procedures

by Johns Hopkins University

A recent study by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers suggests that gameplaying using virtual reality (VR) headsets may provide an engaging and practical distraction therapy for children undergoing painful medical procedures, such as venipunctures. Credit: Public domain, Jessica Lewis

Dealing with a painful medical procedure is difficult for anyone, but often more so if the patient is a child. For example, a venipuncture—the penetrating of a vein for a procedure such as drawing blood or inserting an intravenous tube—may make a young patient anxious or uneasy. Many hospitals, including Johns Hopkins Children’s Center (JHCC), have a dedicated child life services team to help children cope with these procedures, while others depend on more traditional methods of diversions such as toys or books. Now, a recent study by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers suggests that gameplaying using virtual reality (VR) headsets—if the games are appropriate and carefully chosen for pediatric clinical situations—may be an engaging and practical addition to the list of distraction therapy options.

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The future of remote work is a lot like living in a video game

BY JOSEPH VOLPE

I didn’t know the closest I’d get to bonding with my coworkers in 2020 would be by strapping a screen to my face. 

I never got to meet the bulk of them — you know, my East Coast work “family” — before lockdown life locked me into the Bay Area. Sure, there was the occasional weekly video chat. But that was really the extent of it. 

“We’ll fly you out for a visit in the New Year,” management told me. That was the plan and I was fine with that. 

Thing is, that New Year — the 2020 that will go down in infamy — brought with it a very unwelcome surprise. (Do I even need to spell it out?) 

Eventually, we all adjusted to our new socially distanced world. Zoom soon became a buzzword even grandmothers knew. Webcams were often out of stock online.  Life became one unending series of scheduled screen time.

Then the novelty wore off, the WFH fatigue set in, the cold winter months approached, and many wondered how we could continue on living and working this way. 

And when would it end?

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Interactive virtual reality emerges as a new tool for drug design against COVID-19

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Interactive virtual reality emerges as a new tool for drug design against COVID-19

Bristol scientists have demonstrated a new virtual reality [VR] technique which should help in developing drugs against the SARS-CoV-2 virus—and enable researchers to share models and collaborate in new ways. The innovative tool, created by University of Bristol researchers, and published in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, will help scientists around the world identify anti-viral drug leads more rapidly.

A SARS-CoV-2 enzyme known as the main protease (Mpro) is a promising target in the search for new anti-viral treatments. Molecules that stop the main protease from working—called enzyme inhibitors—stop the virus reproducing, and so could be effective drugs. Researchers across the world are working to find such molecules. A key predictor of a drug’s effectiveness is how tightly it binds to its target; knowing how a drug fits into the protein helps researchers design changes to its structure to make it bind more tightly.

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Google used photogrammetry to create a detailed VR tour of Versailles

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It’s the largest photogrammetry capture ever done on the site.

Versailles palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, but fighting those crowds in person can be frustrating. Now, Google and the Château de Versailles have teamed up to take VR users on a private tour of Louis XIV’s royal residence. It’s the largest photogrammetry project ever done at the castle, with 21 rooms and 387,500 square feet of internal surfaces captured. HTC Vive and Oculus Rift users can handle and inspect over 100 sculptures, paintings and other works of art and see them with incredible close-up detail.

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A new immersive classroom uses AI and VR to teach Mandarin Chinese

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Students will learn the language by ordering food or haggling with street vendors on a virtual Beijing street.

Often the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in an environment where people speak it. The constant exposure, along with the pressure to communicate, helps you swiftly pick up and practice new vocabulary. But not everyone gets the opportunity to live or study abroad.

In a new collaboration with IBM Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), a university based in Troy, New York, now offers its students studying Chinese another option: a 360-degree virtual environment that teleports them to the busy streets of Beijing or a crowded Chinese restaurant. Students get to haggle with street vendors or order food, and the environment is equipped with different AI capabilities to respond to them in real time. While the classroom is largely experimental, it is being used for the first time in a six-week, for-credit course at the university this summer.

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Ford designers are dropping their pencils and reaching for VR goggles instead

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Ford Gravity Sketch

Ford outlined how it’s increasingly using virtual reality (VR) technology to eliminate the distance between its design studios in North America, in Asia, and in Europe. The Co-Creation tool the firm created jointly with Gravity Sketch lets engineers work on the same project even if they’re located thousands of miles apart. VR is part of the company’s effort to streamline its design and development processes, and it illustrates an ongoing trend in the automotive industry.

Instead of drawing on a piece of paper, or sketching using CAD software, Ford designers are beginning to use VR headsets and controllers to bring their ideas to life. Significantly, the co-creation tool lets Ford skip the 2D stage of design when it wants to save time, and go straight to 3D. Designers can use the technology to transfer virtual ideas. For example, if a designer prefers an upcoming car (like the born-again Bronco) with a more upright grille, he or she can send a VR-wearing colleague a file containing a sample design.

 

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Facebook can make VR Avatars look – and move – exactly like you

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Research assistant Autumn Trimble sits inside “Mugsy,” one of the capture facilities Pittsburgh’s Facebook Reality Lab uses to create “codec avatars.”

“There’s this big, ugly sucker at the door,” the young woman says, her eyes twinkling, “and he said, ‘Who do you think you are, Lena Horne?’ I said no but that I knew Miss Horne like a sister.”

It’s the beginning of a short soliloquy from Walton Jones’ play The 1940’s Radio Hour, and as she continues with the monologue it’s easy to see that the young woman knows what she’s doing. Her smile grows while she goes on to recount the doorman’s change of tune—like she’s letting you in on the joke. Her lips curl as she seizes on just the right words, playing with their cadence. Her expressions are so finely calibrated, her reading so assured, that with the dark background behind her, you’d think you were watching a black-box revival of the late-’70s Broadway play.

There’s only one problem: Her body disappears below the neck.

Yaser Sheikh reaches out and stops the video. The woman is a stunningly lifelike virtual-reality avatar, her performance generated by data gathered beforehand. But Sheikh, who heads up Facebook Reality Labs’ Pittsburgh location, has another video he considers more impressive. In it, the same woman appears wearing a VR headset, as does a young man. Their headsetted real-life selves chat on the left side of the screen; on the right side, simultaneously, their avatars carry on in perfect concert. As mundane as the conversation is—they talk about hot yoga—it’s also an unprecedented glimpse at the future.

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Bell says latest helicopter was designed 10 times faster with VR

Bell Helicopter challenged its Innovation Team to accelerate its aircraft design process. Turning to VR as a key improvement to their design pipeline, the team created the FCX-001, the company’s first “concept aircraft,” in just six months.

Typically it takes five to seven years to design a helicopter, according to a case study published by Bell and HTC. Within that period there’s typically multiple iterations being explored between draft drawings, pilot testing, and focus groups. Thanks to VR, the FCX-001 ended up taking less than six-months to create, Bell says.

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Adding VR to you next trip to the dentist, will it get rid of the pain?

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Dentists and patients alike want to know how to make dental work less traumatic — and one possible solution may be to combine it with virtual reality. That’s why researchers in the UK enlisted 80 people who needed a cavity filled or a tooth pulled, and separated them into three groups. They gave the first two groups VR headsets, but not the unlucky third control group.

The VR groups either got to explore a beach or navigate a city. The people in the control group just stared at the ceiling while the dentist yanked on their teeth. (Everyone in the study got pain meds or sedation if they needed it.) Patients were surveyed both immediately after their appointments, and a week later.

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Disney Researchers Catch a Real Ball in Virtual Reality

The resurgence of virtual reality is still in its infancy, and while we do have very good VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR, in other areas the tech is still severely lacking. Take interaction, for example, it’s very difficult to convey touching something in the virtual world with physical feedback. But what if you could interact with real world objects that appear in the virtual world?

Disney Research decided to carry out just such an experiment by asking the question: can you catch a real ball in virtual reality? The good news is, yes you can, but there’s a number of prerequisites to achieving such a simple task.

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VR, AR Headset Market Growing 58% A Year, To Reach 99 Million Devices

Driven by lower prices, new devices and an expanding array of content, the market size of virtual and augmented reality headsets is being propelled at a breakneck pace.

Total VR and AR headset shipments will see explosive growth from 10 million units last year to 99 million units in four years, based on a new tracking report.

The virtual and augmented reality headset market will grow 58% a year for the next five years, according to the new International Data Corporation Worldwide Quarterly Augmented and Virtual Reality Headset Tracker.

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