Your first instinct would probably be to tell them that they’re crazy. That they’re far too tall to be able to be inside of a human heart, that’s just insane. But then you’ll remember that technology is a thing. And that people are applying it in some really fascinating ways these days.
Next thing you know they’re bringing in a headset. They put it over your eyes and suddenly you’re staring at a human heart. The surgeon then shows you the issue, what they’ll be doing to fix it, and why. You’ll be able to walk through, first hand, what is and what will be happening to you or a loved one thanks to the Stanford Virtual Heart.
It’s not only one of our most crucial organs, but also one of the most complicated. Aside from keeping that beat for years, even the process the heart goes through to form in utero leaves a lot of space for abnormality, and it happens a lot — every year about 40,000 people are born with congenital heart defects (CHDs) in the United States alone. 1
But it’s a pretty difficult organ to study in action, considering the person needs to be on the table with their chest splayed open… which isn’t really a readily available learning tool for students, since open chest surgery isn’t on the top of most individuals’ favorite activities.
And how do you go about explaining what’s happening to the family members? How do the parents of the children born with heart defects even begin to try to understand an organ that doctors have spent years studying? Well, what about an interactive visual? It seems like the perfect home for our friend, virtual reality (VR).