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Virtual reality therapy is coming. One academic’s predictions of how this will transform health care.

img_0230Technologists have called 2016 the year of virtual reality. In the spring, with the release of high-end consumer headsets, such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, ordinary people will finally be able to test out the technology we’ve been waiting for since the 1990s.

While the biggest chunk of the estimated $80 billion market for VR and so-called augmented reality will be fed by the demand for video game tech, the second biggest share will go to health-care applications.

“What clinical VR provides is the opportunity to put a patient into a world that is different from where they’re sitting — one that is designed to have some therapeutic ingredient built into it,” said Albert “Skip” Rizzo, director for medical virtual reality at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies.

Scientists like Rizzo have been anticipating VR’s disruption of health care since the technology was first introduced over 20 years ago. He has worked on VR applications for post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, physical rehabilitation, emotional coping and even job interview training.

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