discoveries magazine

Innovation 10: The XR Files

Virtual reality, augmented reality, and other forms of video immersion—collectively known as extended reality or "XR"—promise to revolutionize medicine.

Training Ground

XR has many proven uses in the clinic. It can reduce pain, help phobic patients face their fears (virtually), and even rehabilitate the brain after damage. The panoply of virtual treatments begs for a specialized pharmacy to dispense them. Cedars-Sinai is taking a step toward this reality by creating a patient-profile questionnaire that can be mapped to tailored XR and other therapies.

Virtual Pharmacy

Just as flight simulation experience prepares pilots, XR could heighten future medical training. Cedars-Sinai is experimenting with “mixed reality” goggles, like Microsoft’s HoloLens, which can teach nurses to distinguish among hundreds of surgical tools or even simulate fire in an operating room. Eventually, this technology could give clinicians “X-ray vision” during practice surgeries by projecting holographic organs over mannequins to aid navigation. Also being tested: Google Glass smartglasses to record simulated surgeries and provide trainees with real-time vital signs.

Project leaders envision a pharmacy/clinic combination in which patients could receive treatment and then take home a kit for continued therapy.

Software that Reads Minds

Investigators are exploiting VR to study the brain’s vast neural networks by treating it with a process that renders it transparent. They can then peer through large areas of tissue to see the brain's complex wiring and collect unprecedented volumes of data. At Cedars- Sinai, researchers plug the data into syGlass, 3-D software that builds a glowing digital brain map. A VR headset and controllers offer a view inside the colorful organ, which can be explored in various directions and with great dexterity using 3-D tracking. The goal? To understand our most complex organ and hopefully uncover the roots of disease.