VR helping veteran s back on their fee t

VR helping veterans back on their feet

Comment by Comment by

DRWENDY POWELL, SeniorMember of the IEEE and Senior Lecturer in

rtual Reality the University Portsmouth

DR WENDY POWELL, Senior Member of the IEEE and Senior Lecturer in Applications of Virtual Reality at the University of Portsmouth

Applications of Virt

ty at ty of

Closing the engineering g p


Education, Skills and Innovation Lead for the Institution of Engineer ing and Technology


skills a : beyond the extra £600 formaths students

Physical injury is a tragic consequence of armed conflict and one that is now being treat with the latest in medical and technological advances. Injuries ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to limb loss have typically been treated with traditional medical methods, however, s in virtual reality has allowed the technology to be ber of different conditions in new and innovative

used to treat a num recent development


What virtual reality offers is full emersion into a digitally created world, where computer-generated content replaces both hearing and vision, blocking out reality. The technology can create a safe and controlled environment to practice activities that might be dangerous, impractical or unpleasant in real world scenarios, enabling a wider range of activities to take place, helping both physical and mental recovery of patients. ,

immune to the iden or decreased accord them under controll reality the soldier ca

Take, for example a soldier recovering from PTSD Th rough virtua l n be safely exposed to certain triggers, desensitising ed supervision. The soldier can have triggers increased ing to their progress and progressively become tifying triggers.


VR can influence behaviour and perception and therefore can also be used by rehabilitation specialists to treat those going through physical therapy. Traditionally, most physio patients will have exercises and routines designed to help them recover from injury and improve their mobility. With virtual reality, applications can be built to conduct the same exercises with patients reaching for items, however, the mind can be manipulated to believe that the item is closer than it appears encouraging the patient to reach further, meaning over time, the patient is pushing their bod y more than they would have done without the technology.

Unfortunately, some injuries result in the loss of limbs and physical therapy can often take years. Some soldiers who have lost an arm or a leg can feel pain in the limb that is no longer there, this is commonly referred to as phantom limb pain and is fairly common amongst amputees. This pain can disappear by itself over time but for others the pain can be long- lasting and severe.While there have been no conclusive causes of

Virtual reality has them to move it aro on the residual limb to help alleviate the phantom limb pain,

researchers have worked on exercises and treatments pain. Using virtual reality and small electrodes placed , patients can imagine the limb is still there, allowing und and interact with it, thereby reducing the pain. started to show its use cases in treating a number of

different injuries, but we are still yet to explore its ful l potential.We have seen VR used for recovery of stroke patients and as the technology progresses, more applications for the technology will be found enabling it to help a greater number of people in increasingly meaningful ways. For future development, it’s very important to understand the technology and the human body, in order to get the best out of both. There remains the

Decemb e challenge.

r 2017 2017

The £117m boost for A-level maths pupils announced in the autumn budget, designed to encourage more young people to choose the subject and develop the skills needed for “cutting edge” jobs, was widely criticised by the opposition and the media as a drop in the ocean in terms of core school spending.

However, the extra support for those pupils who might use A-leve l maths as a gateway to a career in engineering suggests that the government understands the importance of promoting it in schools and is welcome news to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). As a sector, engineering has the potential to make a significant contribution to productivity in this country and is vital for the health of our economy. The IET’s recent employer survey into skills and demand in industry shows that the sector is buoyant and that a significant number of high value jobs will be created through digitisation and automation in the next few years.

There are more and better opportunities than ever before for young people to enter the engineering profession and it’s important that they are made aware of the exciting and creative career opportunities available to them. It’s not just about focusing on the significance of Science, Technology, Engineering andMathematics (STEM) subj

bjects either – being

an engineer is about solving creative challenges so it’s essential for students to have access to a broad and balanced education.

Crucially, these efforts must extend past GSCE and A-Level choices to university, work experience and apprenticeships. Our recent survey shows that the quality of young people to fill training and employment opportunities is a concern for employers.Many aspiring engineers not only lack the necessary qualifications, skills and experience but also personal skills like work-readiness and motivation.

This points to a need for the gap between education and work to be bridged more effectively. Providing young people with a structured experience of engineering is an essential part of the process to inspire and recruit new talent. Done well, work experience can teach a student about the relevance of engineering, bring it to life in a concrete way and help to prepare them for the world of business.

It’s also important for schools to do their bit to promote the

advantages of more vocational paths into industry rather than focusing only on Higher Education as a valid career option for engineering talent. Encouragingly, this year’s survey shows that 43%of employers have brought on at least one engineering or technical apprentice in the last year, indicating that the benefits are understood by industry and the appetite to provide training and good career prospects exists. A close partnership between employers and educational institutions to design the content of vocational courses can help to develop the specific skill s employers need and support work-readiness in young people.

So while the £600 for every additional pupil who takes A-level maths is a step in the right direction, the demand for engineers is significant and there remains a big job to be done. It’s clear that industry and young people need each other, and that it’s the gap between education and employers that presents the biggest skills challenge.

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