University of Huddersfield Develops VR Program for Dental Surgeons

Development team visit Indian dental hospitals to evaluate VR dental surgery project.

Use of virtual reality (VR) in healthcare is becoming increasingly common. The practice of dentistry seems to be one area that is using the technology to not only train new dentists, but also improve dental procedures.

Researchers at the University of Huddersfield are working on a new way of using VR to train surgeons. The VR surgery uses an Oculus Rift along with motion tracking sensors to give trainees a view of procedures in a 360-degree virtual operating theatre that removes the problems of blocked sightlines and blind spots that exist in most operating theatre environments when inhabited by assistants and nurses.

The project was begun by a PhD student named Yesh Pulijala, a dental surgeon who recognised the problems inherent in current methods of training. Pulijala’s supervisor, Professor Minhua
Ma has been involved in research into the use of computer games for education and training and co-authored a chapter in a book with Pulijala on the use of VR in surgery.

The project also involved Dr David Peebles, an acknowledged expert in cognitive processes. One of Dr Peebles own students, Matthew Pars is using the work done by Yesh Pulijala as a platform for further investigation into the subject. Dr Peebles said: “A lot of training of surgeons is about the nuts and bolts of doing the surgery,” said Dr Peebles. “But there is a whole aspect of their expertise that is called situation awareness, which is about developing a mental model of the whole task and the whole environment. It’s much broader than just doing the surgery and really vital for training novices. Now we are trying to encapsulate all the extra knowledge that experts have and Matt is exploring ways to incorporate it into the system that Yesh has designed.”

The VR surgery project underwent evaluation in India. A team consisting of Professor Ma, Dr Peebles, Yesh Pulijala and Matthew Pears. The team visited seven dental schools in India to demonstrate to technology. A video on the trip can be seen below.

VRFocus will continue to report on VR innovations in the healthcare industry.

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