Article by Dr Andy Levers of the VEC (University of Liverpool)
Virtual reality often appears in today’s news and media, taking the world by storm. Mainly associated with gaming, virtual reality (or VR) is starting to creep into a whole range of industries as more and more businesses are learning of the true potential and benefits this technology can offer.
The Google dictionary definition of Virtual Reality is:
“Computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.”
The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) a technology centre at the University of Liverpool, has worked with a large range of businesses, all stemming from a variety of industries. Using some of the latest technology and equipment, and of course specialised team behind it all, the VEC has created a whole array of virtual environments using CAD data in particular, which can then be interacted with and tested in a number of ways.
Automotive industries hugely benefit from virtual reality using this for product development, manufacturing, maintenance and training. Virtual Reality allows automotive businesses make rapid and multiple changes to their virtual prototype without having to make expensive physical prototypes, improving quality of the product and allowing for a quicker product release which is critical in a fast moving and competitive industry. The VEC has worked with the likes of Bentley Motors and Aston Martin in exploring prototypes of their products for early stage decision making.
Using VR for training purposes is also an increasing use of application. Companies can train staff in the manufacturing of a product before it has rolled off the production line.
The Virtual Engineering Centre has also worked with Alder Hey Children’s hospital where we created a VR model, using real-life MRI Scan data. Surgeons and doctors at the hospital knew their young patient had a hole in their heart so used the virtual heart to identify the location of this hole which allowed for better planning, before the operation took place. This decreases the risk of the operation itself and this technology can be adapted to be used for pre-operative planning purposes across a range of medical conditions.
As well as the use for surgeons and doctors, hospitals are starting to offer virtual reality to their patients also for recovery purposes. Some believe the distraction can remove some of the pain felt during some medicine intake whilst some doctors offer their patients the technology in belief it can help to get over fears.