Future Workplace

Fun got serious

Neurosurgeons operate more precisely, pilots land more safely and employees around the globe collaborate more easily – from avatar to avatar.

Virtual and augmented reality have ceased to be merely gadgets for gamers. The technology is revolutionizing the working world – whether in neurosurgery, aviation or in the manufacturing industry.

Neurosurgeons at the University of California in Los Angeles are using virtual reality glasses like those also used by gamers for their video games. The surgeons virtually fly through the heads of their patients and for this to be possible, they create 3D models of the brain using a combination of computer tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance tomography (MRT). The 360-degree shots not only show where blood vessels and nerve paths run in the skull, but also the location of any tumors or aneurysms. By walking through the simulated brains of the patients, the surgeons can prepare better for surgery before finally operating with greater precision – thanks to virtual reality (VR) technology.

Augmented reality shows the way

It is not only when preparing for operations that neurosurgery has recognized the benefits of technology, but also during the actual performance of operations. Neurosurgeons at Duke University are testing augmented reality glasses to allow drainage tubes to be placed more precisely in the skull. The glasses are not only capable of incorporating CT scans holographically into the operator’s field of view, thus overlaying the patient’s head at a ratio of 1:1. They can also virtually indicate the path of the catheter into the brain. Whereas surgeons would otherwise have to measure and mark the skull in order to insert holes and drainage tubes, augmented reality (AR) technology should soon reliably guide them to their destination.
“Augmented and virtual reality have found their way into the working world,” says Dr. Michael Burmester from the Stuttgart Media University in an interview you can read in full in the next article of the “Future Workplace” Perspective. “The usage context is always critical for the application of technologies. How can augmented and virtual reality support people in their work?”

Relevant information – right before the eyes

Even when it comes to optimizing production processes, virtual and augmented reality are indispensable nowadays. Not far from the Hamburg Airbus location, start-ups and industries are converging in a type of Silicon Valley of European aviation. The Center of Applied Aeronautical Research (German: Zentrum für angewandte Luftfahrtforschung, ZAL) was only recently inaugurated in March 2016. The engineers are working on new aircraft components in their own virtual reality laboratory – with the aim of researching new technologies, materials and processes for the aviation sector. Up to 30 people can view and work on virtual 3D constructions in this presentation room, thus allowing production processes for future aircraft models to be already planned today.
Meanwhile, Facebook has other plans. The social media platform wants to bring people closer together via virtual reality. In other words, instead of meeting up at real locations, meetings take place virtually where the participants face each other avatar to avatar. The digital alter egos interact using virtual reality glasses and visit real or virtual locations together. What does the new factory floor of a company in China look like? Employees can use this new technology to travel effortlessly to China without ever leaving their office.

Mobile devices are fostering development

It is still uncertain as to where the journey will lead in this context, both for people and technology. Christian Steiner, Member of the Board of the first German professional association for virtual reality says: “Virtual and augmented reality have merely illustrated a fraction to us of what will be possible down the line. When it comes to augmented reality, in particular, we expect revolutionary developments, driven by equipment that is increasingly sophisticated in terms of its technology. The technology will open up continuously new usage contexts using smartphones and tablets – be it for work or play.”

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