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Virtual reality app used to train students

13/06/2018By Matthew Woodley • Staff Journalist
A team of educators from Birmingham City University has developed a training tool that uses virtual reality (VR) to teach medical students how to diagnose hard-to-spot eye conditions.

Dr Andrew Wilson and Mr Jake O’Connor, both from the university’s School of Computing and Digital Technology, created software that replicates eye examinations using a smart phone and VR headset to display enhanced, magnified and movable images of the eye’s interior.


“By creating this system we can give trainee doctors as much time as they need to familiarise themselves with how to perform the appropriate systematic processes, identify which signs indicate conditions like diabetes or raised intracranial pressure, and eliminate the need for stand-in patients.”
Andrew Wilson, Birmingham City University

According to the researchers, the innovative VR training system was designed as a way to safely teach students how to perform correct diagnostic procedures during routine eye exams. It does this by allowing trainees to experience enhanced images and 360° views to help spot irregularities in blood vessels and tissues, among others.

“By creating this system we can give trainee doctors as much time as they need to familiarise themselves with how to perform the appropriate systematic processes, identify which signs indicate conditions like diabetes or raised intracranial pressure, and eliminate the need for stand-in patients,” Wilson said.

Wilson and O’Connor collaborated with Professor David Carruthers, medical director at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust in developing the software. It’s currently used as a training tool at the hospital, while medical professionals across Europe and South America have already begun using the technology as well.

“This collaboration has helped develop novel approaches to medical education that is popular amongst students. It allows them to simulate the process of ophthalmoscopic examination of the back of the eye in a systematic way,” Carruthers said.

“Common pathological changes are also demonstrated which will help with the recognition of abnormalities in real patients in their future practice. Future developments may allow simulated examination of other organ systems to support traditional medical training.”

A demo version of the software is available for download from Google Play.

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