Virtual Reality Technology Helps Burn Victims
By Brenda Cooper, 2001
Recently, Glen and I toured the Human Interface Technology lab at the University of Washington, where Glen is a Visiting Scholar. One of the projects is being tested at Harborview Medical Center to help burn victims.
HIT Lab researcher Hunter Hoffman explained that burn treatment, primarily changing dressings, is extremely painful for the patient. He has been successfully using Virtual Reality to provide an alternative to heavy medication during wound care. Hunter uses an interactive game about a snow world where the patient shoots snowballs at various targets. I got to play; it was interesting enough that I didn’t want to take the interface helmet off.
The game works by reducing the subjective intensity of the pain. I imagine it’s like when I bite my lip so I notice my lip instead of a severely stubbed toe. Pain is something that demands attention. When most of the conscious attention is busy, in this case on something fun and pleasurable, then pain gets less attention and seems to be lower. Further research is under way in this promising use of Virtual Reality.
Glen Hiemstra, Futurist.com host, immersed in a cold and snowy VR world. As you can see, the goggles are not yet exactly lightweight wearables, but they are not uncomfortable.