The Fisk University VR Cadaver Lab is Revolutionary — Here’s Why

The entrance to the Fisk University digital twin campus where the cadaver lab is housed.

The fall 2021 semester will be marked by students at Fisk University returning to class on campus — which is important - but when they return to class, they will also be greeted with a new tool not available at any university in the world — a fully immersive virtual reality cadaver lab. In addition, it’s synchronous, meaning 20 students and their professor can be in the lab at the same time.

This is a big deal for five reasons:

  1. Many colleges and universities don’t provide access to a full-time cadaver lab — now they can. For pre-med students and advanced biology students, studying with a human cadaver is important because it shows how the body’s systems fit together. These include organs, muscles, skin and the skeleton. In the case of Fisk University — an HBCU, located in Nashville, TN, they would send their students to Vanderbilt University for these types of classes. With the introduction of the cadaver lab, Fisk University will keep their students on campus learning with an advanced virtual reality simulation. Other universities will likely follow suit. Virtual reality drives down the cost of a human cadaver dramatically. There are two options for cadavers — the real thing, a human who has died and donated their body to science, or a simulated synthetic cadaver. The real thing will typically cost millions to build a cadaver lab (Scientific American) and the synthetic will cost between $50,000 and $100,000. The VR version, with 20 headsets and licenses, is under $30,000. Even more, it is evergreen, it will never wear out.
  2. The VR version will introduce organ variations to match medical conditions that cause sickness and death. Unlike the real thing or the synthetic version, VR can introduce an unlimited number of organ variations. Consider the human heart. The base model uses a healthy human heart. But other versions of the heart that are slated for introduction include one weakened through heart disease, and one filled with plaque in need of stents. For medical students and health professionals, being able to see and understand what they are looking for when they see patients is an important part of understanding health care.
  3. The Magic School Bus becomes a real thing. With the VR version of a human cadaver lab, students can be shrunk to the size of Ant Man — or alternatively, the organ can be enlarged to the size of a bus — and they can actually tour the insides of the organ. Yes, just like Ms. Frizzle.
  4. Major industry tech titans are supporting this effort to deploy at universities and colleges across the world. This cadaver lab is more than a cooperative effort between Fisk University and VictoryXR. T-Mobile, HTC Vive and Unity Technologies are also key contributors. T-Mobile sees a world where the cadaver lab can move anywhere that 5G offers broadband. HTC Vive sees it as a perfect use case for their new Vive 3 headset. And the experience is built using the underlying dev tools from Unity Technologies.
  5. Finally, remote learning is expanding rapidly and VR labs provide a solution for remote students. Think about remote chemistry students and the difficulty they have fulfilling their lab requirements. A successful college education is about much more than reading a 2D screen. Interacting with microscopes and telescopes and cadavers and beakers is integral to an educational journey. These are impossible to do in a remote 2D world and sometimes even difficult to do in a spatially 3D virtual reality environment — nevertheless, it’s happening. The Fisk University cadaver lab conclusively demonstrates how virtual reality labs will become integral to a world that relies more heavily on remote education moving forward.
Students will hold and manipulate human organs in the Fisk University cadaver lab.

The next wave of computing is upon us. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg talks about the metaverse. In the world of education, this cadaver lab on the Fisk University digital twin campus is an important first step toward fulfilling that Ready Player One world. Immersive XR technologies will create the metaverse and spawn a new world of interactivity that is independent of physical geography. The VictoryXR Human Cadaver Lab at Fisk University is just one important use case. Others are on the way and they will redefine how we learn in every way.

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