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3D coastal path will give hospital patients a virtual room with a view

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 08, 2012

Injured soldiers in hospital will have virtual reality headsets, giving them 3D trips to the country and seaside

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A virtual reality reconstruction of a picturesque Westcountry coastal path could soon be helping patients to recover from serious surgery at a hospital that treats injured troops evacuated from Afghanistan.

The digital rendering of Wembury Bay in the South Hams has been developed by researchers from the University of Birmingham.

They are due to demonstrate their work in a 3D show involving hi-tech screens and computers at Wembury village hall on Thursday, starting at 7.30pm.

The team will reveal how a 3D reconstruction of the nearby coastal path is being developed to provide rehabilitation benefits for patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

The hospital treats all the military casualties evacuated from Helmand Province in Afghanistan, as well as civilian patients.

Professor Bob Stone, director of the human interface technologies team at the university's school of electronic, electrical and computer engineering, said: "For the past three years, we have been looking at how virtual reality could help patients recover from serious surgery. Evidence from research demonstrated the restorative power of exposing patients to real-world natural scenes, viewed from their bedside windows.

"In hospital environments without such views, we believe that 'windows' to a virtual rural scene, complete with appropriate sights, sounds and time-of-day lighting effects, can be just as powerful.

"We also believe that those same virtual worlds can be developed to provide motivational interactive exercises to help amputees."

Villagers will be able to experience demonstrations of the virtual environments using technologies from gaming controllers and motion sensors to the latest virtual reality head-mounted display.

They will also get the chance to see how a huge commercial dock and railway complex, once planned for Wembury but never built, would look now. The doomed project, mooted just after the turn of the 20th century, has been digitally created by the researchers using "augmented reality" technology.

Prof Stone said: "The exercise demonstrated just how much of Wembury Bay would have been dominated by the presence of multiple quays, cranes, railway tracks, breakwaters and dockside services, not to mention the housing infrastructure necessary to support such a massive venture.

"Had the proposals not been rejected by the House of Lords in 1909, this development would have decimated the village and coastal areas beyond recognition."

At the suggestion of the Wembury Historical Society and villagers, all proceeds from the evening will be donated to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Charity.

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