Ofcom predicts surgeons will eventually be trained using virtual reality

Surgeons, carpenters and workers handling hazardous chemicals are likely to be trained using virtual reality sets eventually, Ofcom has predicted, as it said people remember around 90 per cent of what they learn using the technology.

The media regulator said improvements in VR headsets meant they would become an effective way to let people train for dangerous professions before attempting the work in real life.

The predictions came as part of a report into how technology is due to evolve and transform Britain in the coming years.

Virtual reality is a form of technology where people wear headsets or goggles that then project an alternate digital reality. The sets, which are already widely used by video gamers, can also be linked to handheld sensors that allow people to perform tasks in their virtual reality.

However, Ofcom noted the headsets are increasingly being used in schools as a more interactive and absorbing way to teach pupils visual subjects.

The report said: “There is consensus that [virtual reality] is an effective way of providing differentiated and personalised learning experiences for students that increases the effectiveness of the teaching process. 

“While on average, a regular student can remember 30 per cent of what they hear and 20 per cent of what they see, statistics indicate that students remember 90 per cent of the material if taught using [VR]”. 

The regulator said that recent advances in the technology and evidence that people retained more of what they learned from it meant it was becoming an increasingly viable and attractive tool to train people for dangerous or manual professions.

The report added: “Areas that are likely to see increased use of immersive [VR] for training include medical training, learning manual skills and crafts (such as joinery, carpentry, building constructions, knitting, sewing) [as well as] learning and practising music, laboratory-based training, and training to work in hazardous environments that involve aspects such as mining, deep sea diving or working with dangerous chemicals.”

Augmented reality versus virtual reality

Other technologies the report said that could become prevalent in the UK are ones that artificially generated different smells.

Scientists are already developing machines that can create convincing replicas of real-world smells and scents on command.

Ofcom said in time these ‘olfactory’ devices could be used to make VR an even more realistic experience, although it added the technology was still at an early stage of development.

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