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3D virtual reality system lights the way for University of Sydney radiation therapy students


22 May 2012

The virtual reality training system allows students to 'see inside' human bodies. [Image: Vertual Ltd]
The virtual reality training system allows students to 'see inside' human bodies. [Image: Vertual Ltd]

Australia's next generation of radiation therapists will benefit from a new state-of-the-art 3D virtual reality training system at the University of Sydney.

The Virtual Environment for Radiotherapy Training (VERT) system will give students life-like experience of radiation therapy clinical scenarios, such as preparing patients for cancer treatment.

"The medical radiation sciences professions are of critical importance to the identification, diagnosis and treatment of one of Australia's biggest disease burdens - cancer," says Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

According to VERT academic Dr Michala Short, the VERT system provides students with a safe environment free from time pressures commonly encountered in busy radiation therapy departments.

"It increases students' confidence and competence before attending clinical placements and we are looking forward to embarking on research to further explore the impact of simulated learning environments on students' experience."

Opening this evening at the University's Faculty of Health Sciences, the VERT system allows students to use real clinical equipment and immersive 3D technology to treat a virtual patient.

The VERT projection system consists of a virtual linear accelerator (a clinical unit that produces X-rays and electrons used to treat cancer) and hand pendants used to operate the unit. Users of the VERT system wear 3D glasses, similar to those used to watch 3D films, to visualise life-sized 3D computed tomography (CT) reconstructions of the human body.

When wearing the glasses, students can walk around the patient and observe the way radiation beams interact with the tissue and organs inside the patient.

"It is expected that by familiarising themselves with this sophisticated technology at university, students will be better able to focus on the patient in the clinical environment," says Dr Short.

The project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing under a joint submission from the University of Sydney, the University of South Australia, the University of Newcastle, Queensland University of Technology, Monash University and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University.


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Media enquiries: Katie Szittner, 02 9351 2261, 0478 316 809, katie.szittner@sydney.edu.au