How virtual reality technologies are revolutionising STEM learning

Humanity’s medical and technological advancements, when placed within the wider context of human history, are astounding. In less than 200 years — or 0.001% of humanity’s time on earth — we’ve invented myriad methods for detecting, treating and even eradicating diseases that once wiped out our ancestors by the millions.Yet medical technologies like X-ray imaging, anaesthesia, vaccines, immunotherapy and countless others may soon be considered the advancements of old. Promising new technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are projected to reshape every aspect of our lives, from shopping and exercising to learning and working.The phrase “virtual reality” often conjures images of gamers sitting in front of a screen. But this technology has hundreds of practical applications beyond entertainment, and it’s particularly useful for STEM students of all backgrounds and disciplines.Indeed, VR is already changing our world and increasing our aptitude for diagnosing and treating disease. Neuroscientists at Cambridge are currently testing VR’s efficiency at detecting navigational problems in patients prone to developing Alzheimer’s. Some mental health professionals have used VR to treat patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and more. Doctors and surgeons around the world rely on VR to soothe and distract anxious patients, plan complex surgeries, and rehabilitate stroke victims and those with head injuries.

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