New virtual reality tool to help doctors treat tumors more effectively

'VRvisu' program created by UNF student, professor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new tool could change the way doctors treat cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

A student and an assistant professor at University of North Florida created a virtual reality program that can gives physicians 3-D health data, allowing them to treat tumors more effectively.

It's like a virtual doctor's office, where physicians can take a closer look at health data. 

A floating chart plots real-life tumors recreated from 3-D MRI images. In the palm of their hands, doctors can check the size, shape and characteristics of the tumor without the patient going under the knife. 

UNF senior Jason Smith named the program "VRvisu."

"The great thing about virtual reality is that you're only limited by your imagination," Smith said.

It all started as a project for Smith's computing and information sciences major, but it turned into a new tool that can change health care forever. 

"In this project, we visualized cancer tumor data sets. That's one of the applications," said Dr. Sandeep Reddivari, UNF assistant professor of computing. "You can do neuroscience and rehabilitation using virtual reality, and you can train surgeons using virtual reality."

With the new program, and some virtual reality goggles, physicians can step into the office from wherever they are. Sensors set up around the room will keep the user from running into walls or other objects in the area.

Smith created the entire application in about five months using grant money for the gadgets, such as the goggles and sensors.

"A majority of it was done at home, and I have two little ones running around, so it was definitely a bit of a challenge," Smith said.

Although it's just a prototype, Smith plans to continue working on VRVisu, and invites other students to contribute to the application.

He hopes it will help medical professionals successfully treat patients with life-threatening illnesses.