Game of life

The use of VR and AR as training methods is becoming more widespread, but now even video games are getting into the classroom

Once the preserve of sci-fi films and theme parks, virtual reality and augmented reality are becoming ever more useful and feasible techniques for teaching people how to do really tricky things.

From surgeons to engineers, the ability to create highly complex practice situations – without needing a patient to actually collapse from a massive internal injury or a hugely important piece of machinery to actually break – is revolutionising the way that professionals learn new skills. In fact, the desire to take scenarios out of the physical and into the virtual environment is gaining momentum across many sectors, particularly in the testing and development spheres.

Now a doctor in the US has decided to tap into the potential of computer games, not to develop manual skills, but to boost the diagnostic and evaluation abilities of health professionals. Dr Deepika Mohan realised that some doctors were failing to properly recognise trauma injuries, particularly for those patients whose symptoms didn’t initially appear to be dramatic or life-threatening.

The result is Night Shift, a game that puts the doctor into various emergency room situations and asks them to pick up on severe trauma injuries during conversations with patients. It’s not the most visually sophisticated programme you’ll ever see. But during a trial, the group of test subjects who used the computer game made about 10% fewer mistakes than those who used book materials and the results were even better six months later.

However, the majority of doctors who took part in the trial said they still preferred to use the books, leading Dr Mohan to understand that different people respond to games in different ways. Some people play games for social reasons, some for the challenge, some because they enjoy the escapism of the content. So, she now intends to try and develop different versions of the game, so that each doctor can be offered the type that most appeals to them in order to maximise engagement. 

Computer games that can save lives? That sounds like a win-win for all concerned.

Are you working on VR, AR or game-based edu-tech or training aids? Drop us a line at and tell us your innovation story.

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