Consider the following scenario: A woman in a remote rural area of a developing country is due to give birth in a few days. She has no access to a healthcare provider—but thanks to the proliferation of mobile phone technology, she nabs a virtual reality (VR) app and a homemade version of Google’s Cardboard (a boxlike viewer that wraps around a smartphone). There, in a rural village, her birth team is immersed in a 3D lesson in delivery and in preventing infections.
That scenario could be a true reality, not just a virtual one, thanks to the efforts of companies such as zSpace Inc., Jaunt, Inc. and CAE Healthcare. Making VR headsets to support the technology are companies like Oculus (bought by Facebook last year for $2bn), Sony, Samsung, Microsoft, Google and HTC. The market for VR healthcare could reach $2.43bn by 2018, according to research firm Global Industry Analysts.
While VR is not new to medicine, its affordability is: Medical headsets have traditionally cost from $30,000 to ten times that much. Oculus, which will be available to consumers in 2016, is already available to developers for between $350 and $400.