South by Southwest 2018 is in full swing and Gary Radburn, Dell's Director of Workstation Virtualization, Commercial VR and AR, is standing outside in the sun. He's right outside the Austin Convention Center, a main hub of activities and sessions at the South by Southwest Conference.
Dell is one of many companies that are here to promote their current visions for the future. Among other things, Dell has some strong visions for the future of VR and AR. I spoke to Gary Radburn, Director of Workstation Virtualization, Commercial VR and AR at Dell, to gain insight on his vision for extended realities.
He is standing in the bright, Texas, sun, explaining his passion for the whole VR/AR industry. He explains how he has always "been interested in terms of what it can do to push the boundaries." Radburn says "If I wasn't working in it, I'd be doing it as a hobby anyway." He is inspired by a vision of "greater good inside of VR." His passion for the technology runs deep, as he explains that "healthcare stuff that we've been doing in VR, it makes me feel good to get up and go to work in the morning."
One of the healthcare applications that inspires Radburn, is Dell’s work with exposure therapy for PTSD. Dell works with Dr. Skip Rizzo from the University of Southern California, in order to help " veterans who've seen active service." (http://ict.usc.edu/profile/albert-skip-rizzo/).
Another application that inspires Radburn is the use of "AI in a VR environment," that allows people with autism to practice job interviews. They get to "practice different interview questions with different interview techniques," as well as practicing social techniques to deal with the personality quirks of interviewers. People can "interview" with "somebody who might be hostile, somebody who might be friendly, so they can work out how they are going to react in that situation to basically help people with Autism become more independent."
Physical pain may also be helped by VR, according to Radburn. He describes how "somebody who's going through rehabilitation after breaking an arm or some other personal tragedy" will have to do repetitive movements as part of their therapy. According to Radburn "if you're anything like me it's a case like 'nah it will get better by itself, it will be fine,'" because many people find mundane repetitive movements unappealing.
Adding a gaming element to the healing process can encourage the necessary treatments, because when "you put somebody inside a game where they're actually subconsciously doing those movements." They can heal and "have fun doing it at the same time"
One more innovative use of immersive experiences that Radburn references, is the pre-surgery immersive experience. He describes how ""we've seen doctors now doing 360 videos of the patient's journey down to the operating theater, and then going into the operating theater and actually seeing the operating theater in 360, so that you're actually preparing somebody for what they're going to see on their journey down."
According to Radburn, this pre-surgery experience reduces the stress of the surgery. People already know " this machine does this, this person's doing this, this machine does that." This can make "the anesthesiologist's job easier and therefore there's more of a chance of a successful outcome," because "you're reducing stress" and "reducing the heart rate of the patient."
Overall, Radburn describes these medical applications as "another tool in the chest to be able to use in the medical field." He maintains that "how people chose to use that, whether it's a replacement for, supplement to, addition, or whatever," will still come down to "the individual's case." But he does seem to believe that this technology may have a valuable use in the medical field.
Radburn is one of many people who see great potential in VR and AR for the good of humankind. He is working to show this potential to the rest of the world. Keep on the lookout for further developments in this field, and be ready for a future of extended realities.