Human-centric design advanced through virtual reality

Virtual reality may be more closely associated with entertainment but it is set to play a key role in the development of medical devices. This is through giving the medical device manufacturer a new perspective of how a device looks, feels and is used from the perspective of the medical professional or patient. This introduces a level of empathy not previously experienced by designers.

The types of devices where this may work could include an inhaler, or perhaps a type of injection system. For more complex items, the technology could aid with prosthetics or surgical implants.

An example of a smart inhaler, as imagined by Teva Pharmaceuticals.

Teva pharmaceuticals

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Virtual reality is based on headsets designed to generate realistic images, along with sounds and other sensations in an immersive environment. These are designed to simulate the user’s physical presence (telepresence) within an artificial world. The technology has been accelerated through advances in gaming,

One use of virtual reality with medical devices is with early design research, helping to quickly assess initial design concepts; plus helping to pinpoint user need; and by undertaking remote testing. Some of the advantages have been reviewed by MD&DI, a medical device technology company. These include:

Creating Immersive Contextual Simulations: Here the developer can begin to observe potential user behaviors.

Capturing Complex Environments: Looking at how the medical device might be used for conducting a complex procedure.

Capturing first-person observational data: Trying to understand end-use needs.

Improving Data Collection: tools like eye tracking can be used to capture what the participant notices. Add to this, positional tracking algorithms to quantitatively discern the limitations a user may face in a given situaiton.

The increasing use of electronic media is widening the communication gap between parents and childre...

The increasing use of electronic media is widening the communication gap between parents and children. — Wearable technology and virtual reality immerse a gaming enthusiast at a local meetup in Irvine, California during a night of demos.

In addition to design, virtual reality technology can help to train medical professionals, such as teaching would-be surgeons through simulated surgeries, avoiding any risk to patients. Moreover, medical students can use headsets to view and experience complex surgeries or to gain experience of different body parts.

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Virtual reality for the medical design sector promises insights into how decisions relating to the device are made from the user’s perspective, leading to iterative improvements with the overall design. Human-centric design also pays off in other ways, in that patients who have positive experiences with medical devices are more likely to use them properly, which fits with the best practice paradigm of medicine-based-evidence.

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