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Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

Why Scientists Are Delving into the Virtual World

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Three students work together in virtual reality to learn how to use a 3D printer.

Brands such as Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s HoloLens made VR popular through gaming; now, researchers are deploying the same tools to monitor experiments, collaborate with international research partners, and conduct immersive training programs.

Credit: Stephen Hilton

A growing number of scientific researchers are using virtual reality (VR) technology in the lab, often to more easily collaborate with distant colleagues, or simply to work remotely.

VR headsets are used in the School of Pharmacy at the U.K.'s University College London to train students through hands-on experiments in a virtual environment.

Researchers at South Africa's University of Pretoria have incorporated extended reality training tools so engineering students can explore mines, tunnels, and other potentially hazardous spaces virtually.

Medical students at the U.K.'s Cardiff University and the University Hospital of Wales are training to diagnose and treat sepsis using a VR education tool, which Cardiff's Simran Sharma said "offers a repeatable, standardized clinical training method that is not reliant on the quality of the trainer."

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