Virtual reality (VR) is an increasingly hot tech topic. It is worthwhile to pause and reflect on its potential and practicality for health sciences libraries. 

Virtual reality is a computer technology that uses headsets to create an immersive, computer-generated simulation that allows end users to experience, move about in, and interact with this virtual world, shutting out the real world. 

Other tightly related technologies that are growing in popularity are augmented reality (AR), which overlays a three-dimensional (3D) environment with supplemental data such as graphics or sound, enabling end users to interact with both physical and virtual objects, and mixed reality (MR), which aims to combine both VR and AR, allowing the digital or VR world to interact in real world surroundings. 

These new “realities” can create unique experiences that expand learning opportunities and engagement for end users.

To achieve less expense and more efficiency in medical training

Med School without Cadavers?   Some medical schools are turning to virtual reality instead of dissection.

This year a few U.S. medical schools will offer their anatomy curriculum without any cadavers. Instead their students will probe the human body using three-dimensional renderings in virtual reality, combined with physical replicas of the organs and real patient medical images such as ultrasound and CT scans.

The program developers hope technology can improve on some of the limitations of traditional approaches. It takes a long time to dissect cadavers, and some body parts are so inaccessible that they may be destroyed in the process. Plus, the textures and colors of an embalmed cadaver’s organs do not match those of a living body, and donated bodies tend to be old and diseased. 

The world has changed. The formation must do it to adapt to the new times

Anatomy education, it hasn’t changed much since the Renaissance. But as technology advanced and as knowledge increase, there come a push to do things better and faster and give students a more appropriate representation of human anatomy. And that is what Simlab IT can do. 

Information technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality devices and precision medicine have moved from experimental to capacities that hold significant hope for impacting medical delivery in the new decade.

Sooner rather than later, all training will be in VR

Another open question is whether students learn as well using the digital tools. Educators’ studies are probing whether replacing old techniques with new technology will actually improve, and not harm, the quality of their students’ education. Their results, if positive, may encourage more schools to convert. It feels too early to call this a trend, but given the sheer number of schools that have shown interest, it feels like something’s happening.


Anatomy education has been resistant to change for so long that we see what is happening now as a sign of a possible historic transition. We’re at the beginning of a paradigm shift, no question about that. But that shift is going to take several years.

However, if you asked me how anatomy education going to be done in a decade? It’s not going to be done with cadavers. It will be done in VR or AR. Without any doubt. 

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