Virtual reality technology medical equipment is used at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital in Guangzhou.[Photo/Xinhua]
The booming technology of virtual reality could bring about revolutionary change in the medical field, though VR still faces huge challenges, experts said.
"A virtual human body is expected to be transferred into a new medical platform, where some operations and drug development can be done," said Zhao Qinping, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
"Currently, medical experiments are mainly carried out on living animals and human volunteers … a virtual human body will provide a new method," Zhao said during the World Virtual Reality Innovation Conference, held recently in Qingdao, East China's Shandong province.
Zhao, who is also chairman of the Industry of Virtual Reality Alliance, said a virtual human body would be the ultimate goal of VR research.
According to Zhao, the virtual human body is a process of digitalizing a human body by collecting various data as well as modeling geometrically, physically and physiologically.
To date, the geometrical and physical levels have made progress and the main development will focus on physiological characteristics, including construction of the human brain, Zhao said.
"Therefore, it is much more difficult to make a complete virtual human body because of the complexity of a human organism," said Zhao, adding that the goal will require powerful computing capability.
Zhao also emphasized that the integration of virtual reality and artificial intelligence is a general trend in the future.
VR technology is already widely used in medical areas such as operational, psychotherapy and rehabilitation training, and it is expected to find new applications in the near future.
Lin Hao, vice-president of the client solutions group at Dell Greater China, said his company has developed a live surgery training session based on virtual reality technology, which will be put into use at more than 10 medical schools in the country.
China has become a global center to develop the virtual reality sector, which is playing a major role in the Made in China 2025 strategy, said Qiao Yueshan, deputy director of information technology department of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Qiao said that the development of virtual reality technology in China has established a solid foundation but there are problems and shortcomings. Chinese developers are putting more focus on hardware upgrades, such as indicators of screen resolution, rather than content and application, which is an important direction of virtual reality industry investment globally, Qiao said.
"At present, foreign giants such as Google, Apple and Microsoft are eying a wide range of virtual reality technologies, and many small and medium-sized foreign enterprises are targeting weak links in terms of hardware and software development as well as content produce," Qiao said. "In contrast, Chinese enterprises lack cooperation in the whole industry chain of virtual reality."