Keele University adds extra dimension to pharmacy

Since Virtalis installed a four-sided ActiveCube at Keele University in the UK last year, staff at the School of Pharmacy have been busy adapting their groundbreaking Virtual Patient and Virtual Ward pharmacy training systems to run in a VR environment.

Although originally designed as a system for just its students, now there is interest from universities and pharmaceutical companies worldwide and the University has applied for a patent.

Students using Keele’s Virtual Patient are able to interact with the computer generated characters through the use of multiple choice questions or ‘natural’ free text questions. The patients can be programmed with different scenarios and medical histories. The students can even break out of the consultation to contact virtual GPs, consultants or receptionists to gather more evidence. Not only do the avatars and backdrops used look remarkably realistic, they are even endowed with personalities. This means that depending on the outcome of the scenario, the avatars may reprimand the user if unnecessary questions are asked or previous decisions challenged.

The Virtual Ward gives clinical educators the opportunity to change the patients each week. They can be programmed to display the symptoms for common disorders, such as tumours, jaundice or breathing difficulties. The students can consult the drugs charts on the patient’s bed, their ECG monitor or check for cleanliness on the Ward. As in real life, the patient responds when approached, but unlike real life, the student can “fly” inside the patient’s body to examine their major organs.

Keele’s Virtalis ActiveCube boasts three rear-projected walls, with a front-projected floor, forming a multi-sided VR system. It features Christie Digital projectors and uses InterSense wireless tracking technology, enabling the users to move around unfettered, with their view points within the virtual world updating in real time. The system is powered by a master Dell PC with four Dell cluster nodes and is controlled by an iPad.

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