In the field of biomedicine, exposing students to equipment and tools used in industrial setting is of great importance, this gives them first-hand experience on how these instruments work on a real life scenario, which is crucial for their career development. The use of laboratories is necessary for these reasons and a great way of implementing them is through virtual reality. By given the student a virtual room equipped with the necessary tools, they can easily learn to use the material by interacting with it as if it were a real instrument, which trains them for a real world scenario.
Given that biomedical engineering is a field that is constantly releasing new technology, the instruments used in laboratories can be out of date in relation to the ones used in the industry. A great solution for practicing with up to date equipment is by simulating them and their processes on a virtual environment. This facilitates their use because the student learns how the real instrument work without running the risk of damaging it, and it prepares them well for using the equipment in a real life scenario, and since it’s virtual, it can be used by many students at the same time, giving each one of them the opportunity to learn in depth the working mechanism of each instrument.
Virtual instrumentation is important in biomedicine, and the main lab topics that are studied are circuit breadboard and biomechanics. In a real life laboratory students learn to use a circuit schematic to build a breadboard circuit, and to do this they use a wide set of tools, such as bench top power supplies, oscilloscopes, wires, breadboard, etc. This instruments teach the student how to build circuits in an active way, and a great way of teaching them is using virtual reality. With virtual reality, the student can enter a laboratory with all the necessary equipment from the comfort of their home, making the laboratories more accessible to more students instead of having to deal with the limit of persons that can be in one room. The tools simulated in the virtual lab are exactly the same as the ones used in a real scenario, giving the user the full experience and without the errors that they can sometimes have, for example, breadboards can present short circuits after a while of being used, making some connections not work like they should. With a virtual reality lab, this error can be removed, giving the user the chance of making as many circuits as they want without running the risk of damaging the breadboard.
In biomechanical lab, motion capture systems are often implemented to capture human movement in a variety of situations. It combines running and walking analysis to improve performance or reduce injury. All the instruments used to analyze these movements can be recreated in a virtual lab, even being able to recreate different body sizes to get different data.
With all the possibilities that virtual reality offers, including the reduction of costs and being available to more users, it is a technology that can be used to replace or to complement a physical laboratory, and with the possibility of having any instrument recreated in a 3D world, it gives the user the ability to experiment with almost any subject.
By Sofia Indira Calderón Alvarez