Illustration by Ellice Weaver


Inner Space

An interdisciplinary centre allows you to virtually venture where you couldn't before

By Mifi Purvis, '93 BA

May 28, 2019 •

It's hard to imagine a three-dimensional space based on a flat illustration, especially when the space is microscopic - think the inside of a cell. Cognitive Projections aims to change all that. It's an interdisciplinary lab that uses virtual and augmented reality in teaching and learning. Now you can put on a headset and take a virtual tour inside a cell, even manipulating the Golgi bodies and mitochondria if you like.

"This technology is driven by gamers," says Nathanial Maeda, '12 BSc(MechEng), '18 PhD, director of operations. The centre has programming expertise, an artist on staff and access to digital 3D libraries.

Zoom out: students can perform their first head-and-neck dissections virtually, getting an in-depth understanding of the bones, the various tissues and their functions before they ever get close to a cadaveric dissection.

Zoom out further: students can practise clinical skills on virtual patients, so by the time they meet a real one, they have exercised that muscle well. "Currently, examiners end up testing students' ability to stay cool," Maeda says. "VR practice can remove anxiety from the equation so it's students' clinical knowledge that is getting tested."

Now make that space bigger: an immersive VR experience inside a room-sized cube allows patients working with experts at the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research to practise speaking in front of virtual crowds. Maeda plans for the centre to work with veterans with PTSD to provide immersive therapy to help them master their trigger experiences.

"We have content experts from across campus and we're hoping to garner industry partners," says Maeda. "There are so many possibilities."

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