Virtual Reality Applications Give Science a New Dimension

Most of us have heard of virtual reality through gaming. Video game technology is advancing and right now, VR headsets are trending. While gamers are taking advantage of augmented reality, they aren’t the only ones. VR isn’t only for entertainment. In fact, it has scientific applications that scientists are taking advantage of. Not only in the studies of molecular structures, but in medicine, scientists are using it.

So far, there are a small number of labs that use the technology, but it’s expected that the use is only going to grow over the next several years. As tech advances, it will become more common in standard labs. Seeing science and information in 3D is important. When you look at a 2D screen, it’s difficult to construct a 3D model from it. This takes a lot of work. However, when you have a pair of goggles that can do the work for you, it becomes that much easier.


How Virtual Reality Changes Science

Consider how miniscule cells are. In the past, scientists would blow up cells on a flat screen to view the internal structure. While this type of exploration works, it isn’t half as efficient as virtual reality. With augmented reality technology, you can put on a headset and dissect a cell through a variety of layers. You can view the specialized structures and use controllers to manipulate the cell. This is as close as anyone can get to handling cells!


Augmented Reality

The difference between augmented reality and virtual reality is that augmented reality still allows you to view your surroundings. The reason why this helpful is that users are far less disoriented while using AR technology. In fact, some people wind up with motion sickness when using VR. When you can integrate real life into what the viewer sees, it lessens the dizzy or nauseating affects that some people may get from VR. The science needs to be comfortable for people to be able to use it.

AR isn’t perfect, however. It is a narrower field of view and not as immersive as VR. Still, consider protein interactions, for instance. On a 2D screen, it is difficult to see protein interactions. However, if you use AR, you can see them a lot better. In addition, doctors are using AR to look at patients’ CT scans. A surgeon can explore the tissue of hearts. These doctors literally walk into the heart to look at the ventricle or atrium. If a patient has a problem with their blood vessels, the doctor will see it up close.

Of course, this type of AR technology is expensive. For some of the hospital work that it can do though, it may be worth it. The HoloLens is one of the most common AR technologies that is used by doctors. It has to be ordered from Microsoft, rather than found in any type of shop. While it carries a $3,000 price tag, as it grows and advances, it may become more affordable.



Goggle-Eyed VR headsets are more expensive options. These devices track head movements and handheld controllers. The Oculus Rift and Vive are two of the most common and high quality of these sets. One interesting fact about some of these headsets is that you can have up to four people viewing the same simulation. This allows for a team to view data at the same time and to interact with it together. This can also be used by scientists who may not be in the same area to meet in person. They can reduce their costs in travel to continue their work as a team.


Affordable Options

While a lot of the VR options are too expensive for mainstream labs, there are cheaper options available to reach a large audience. The Samsung Gear VR or the Google Cardboard are affordable options that use smartphones. Still, there are scientific uses for these too. The Juicebox VR, for instance, visualizes the human genome. The point of this type of VR is to allow scientists and others to view the data and interact with it. This makes it simpler to understand. Other scientists even use apps like Augment, that is normally used to view furniture in a room, to view 3D models of proteins.

Augmented reality technology and virtual reality could potentially change the way that we explore science and medicine. VR is not simply for gaming or high-quality video watching. The immersive capabilities of virtual reality allow for scientists to view things in a new dimension. Normally, science is viewed on a 2D screen. It’s easier for the human mind to process information when it’s delivered in a 3D and tangible way. To be able to interact with data makes it simpler to draw conclusions. While this technology is not mainstream in the science community yet, as it progresses, there will no doubt be more of it.