Virtual reality (VR) is gaining popularity in many different areas of today's life, especially in education. Its use is particularly welcome for practical training that is dangerous or impossible to perform in real environments. Such exercises are very common in medicine. To learn complex procedures and techniques, students of medicine must work with real patients. Because of their inexperience, such actions are undesired, of course. VR systems can help bridge the gap between theory and reality. The students of neonatal medicine at Stanford School of Medicine (Stanford University, USA), for example, need a virtual delivery room, in which their training can be supervised by their mentor who has the ability of selecting different scenarios for the course of action. This way, the students can immediately see the results of their actions and are not afraid of learning from their mistakes.
Although a special VR equipment can be used, the VIDERO system is fully functional even on today’s standardly equipped PCs. The biggest problems we are currently facing are a high system utilization, browser security restrictions for the Java applets and limited platform independence.
In the future, we plan to start tracking the position of arms, introduce the support for handling the virtual objects, extend the system to include multiple users, and try to connect VIDERO with the force-feedback and haptic interfaces. The mathematical model of virtual baby is also being researched, because it would introduce the autonomy of virtual newborn, simplify the changes of vital signs, and enable time-dependent actions. But even now, the VIDERO application can be used for a supervised training of the neonatal medicine students. Moreover, techniques and solutions developed during our work can be used in numerous similar virtual environments. But the most important is that our efforts might contribute to healthier and happier babies all around the world.