Do you struggle with your balance? If you do, you are far from the only one, but diagnosing that can often be a little bit difficult. However that may be about to change, as one doctor has pioneered a new method of diagnosing issues with a patient’s balance by utilising an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
The technique was pioneered by researchers at the University of California-San Diego, who were headed by Dr. Felipe Medeiros. Together they took a sample of elder people with a mix of ailments, including Glaucoma and other eye disorders and several non-sufferers to act as a control. When they were fitted with the Oculus Rift headset and were then given a number of balance tests, it was found that those who had issues with their eyes, or had had falls in the past, made more pronounced movements to correct changes in balance and were more likely to fall in the future.
It’s thought from this study that the subjects with Glaucoma were processing visual cues more slowly, and so when they were reacting to different balance affecting stimulus, that they over-reacted to compensate and that was why they were more susceptible to falls.
The reason the Rift was such a good tool in diagnosing this, was because it allowed for the researchers to simulate a number of different scenarios in quick succession and it lets them view what their subjects are seeing at all times, thereby making it possible to measure the time between stimulus and reaction much more accurately.
As TechTimes points out though, Medeiros has already had a little brush with virtual reality in his time as a researcher and medical practitioner. Previously he worked with a virtual driving simulator which cost as much as $300,000, and it wasn’t anywhere near as effective. Today, as the technology has become smaller and far cheaper (a commercial Oculus Rift headset will cost around $300 at launch) he is even more excited by its potential.
“The technology is there. We need to find uses for this technology that will benefit the population as a whole, going beyond the video game use,” he said.