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Virtual Reality (VR) in Medicine

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

CUREO is our virtual reality therapy system. But what does virtual reality (VR) actually mean and since when has VR been used in medicine? Find out more in this article.

Definition of virtual reality

Virtual Reality is a virtual world created by a computer. Virtual means "not existing in reality but appearing real" [1]. There are various areas of application in the health sector, such as virtual rehabilitation or virtual assistance during operations.

The evolution of virtual reality

As early as the 19th century, 360 ° panoramic images were developed to give the observer the illusion of being in the middle of the action [4]. In addition, Charles Wheatstone discovered in 1838 that two adjacent two-dimensional (2D) images gave the brain the impression of a three-dimensional image (3D). This is also known as stereoscopic vision [4]. The first VR glasses with motion tracking technology i.e., motion detection, have been used by the military since the 1960s to discover danger zones from a distance. Another 30 years later, the first games with stereoscopic images were developed and, to date, sophisticated VR applications have been tested in medicine for more than 20 years. In the past, 2D images on the monitor were also referred to as “virtual reality” and the first input devices, computer mouse and keyboard, could only be used to a limited extent for therapy. This was drastically improved by the development of the first movement game consoles (e.g. Wii, Kinect) that were capable of movement tracking. The first systems (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive) that enabled 3D (stereoscopic) imaging were stationary and required an external base station for movement tracking. With InsideOut tracking, today's systems are mobile and have a high range of motion.

VR in medicine

The application of virtual reality in medicine should allow viewers to completely immerse themselves in another world, also known as immersion [3]. The result is a therapeutic effect and support of the work of medical staff. The virtual world is simulated with the help of VR glasses with a built-in display and lens systems (head-mounted displays. Users put on the glasses and only see the virtual environment. Through embodiment, bodily perception through a virtual avatar, patients perceive themselves to be part of the virtual world and can interact with it. In addition to the visual sense, particularly good simulations also stimulate auditory and tactile perception. The CUREO therapy system makes use of multisensory feedback of movements, in which feedback is delivered via multiple senses to improve immersion. Auditory stimuli are given through sounds and language; haptic feedback is translated via controllers that patients hold; visual feedback surrounds the patient in the virtual world in the form of i.e., colors or movement lines.

Virtual Reality Therapy

VR technology is equipped to contribute to therapy of various forms: from psychological, neurological and physiological therapy to the therapy of cognitive diseases. In anxiety therapy, for example, confrontations can take place virtually saving time constraints and easing financial burdens [5]. The playful and motivating approach in combination with precise movement feedback enables effective rehabilitation for neurological diseases. If a patient suffers from pain, VR can serve as a distraction and significantly alleviate the sensation of pain [6].

Additionally, VR can be used to support the training of medical staff [7]; future medical interventions and surgeries can be planned in three-dimensional space [3].

CUREO has the potential to improve physical and occupational therapy by moving rehabilitation sessions to a virtual world with new features.

Support of everyday therapy

CUREO simplifies the therapy effort, since required equipment, such as blocks, can now simply be displayed virtually. In addition, therapy motivation is increased because the patients work with innovative devices and technologies, while gamification of tasks in VR makes therapy more engaging. Our unique movement guidance system supports the patient during the therapy exercises and the modular setting options allow the therapist to adapt the system individually to the patient.

VR and AR

A similar term is "augmented reality" (AR), which we will address in another article.


[1] B. I. GmbH, „Duden 'virtuell',“ [Online]. Available: [Zugriff am 24 Oktober 2019].

[2] D. Prof. Dr. Markgraf, „Gablers Wirtschaftslexikon 'augmented reality',“ Springer-Gabler, [Online]. Available: [Zugriff am 24 Oktober 2019].

[3] C. Albrand, „Was ist Virtual Reality?,“, 5 10 2017. [Online]. Available: [Zugriff am 25. Oktober 2019].

[4] L. Baden-Württemberg, „Geschichte der virtuellen Realität,“ [Online]. Available: [Zugriff am 25 Oktober 2019].

[5] J. Wermke, „VR und AR in der Medizin,“, 21 6 2018. [Online]. Available: [Zugriff am 8.5.2020].

[6] G. T. C. W. J. M. I. L. L. A. W. J. R. E. J. S. T. L. R. S. R. S. D. R. P. Hunter G. Hoffman, „Virtual Reality as an Adjunctive Non-pharmacologic Analgesic for Acute Burn Pain During Medical Procedures,“ Annals of Behavioral Medicine, pp. 183-181, 4 2011.

[7] J.-P. F. T. J. S. R. S. W. Sonja Kind, „Virtual und Augmented Reality: Status quo, Herausforderungen und zukünftige Entwicklungen,“ 4 2019. [Online]. Available: [Zugriff am 8 5 2020].

[8] A. Hatscher, „Vor- und Nachteile digitaler Lernwelten,“ Bavaria Film, 13 11 2017. [Online]. Available: [Zugriff am 25 Oktober 2019].

[9] Wikipedia, „Stereofonie,“ [Online]. Available: [Zugriff am 25. Oktober 2019].

[10] D. Brechtel, „Lellwitz-Studie: Akzeptanz für Virtual Reality wächst stark,“, 27 1 2017. [Online]. Available: [Zugriff am 25 Oktober 2019].


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