Children attending a special camp wore 3-D glasses and played with a virtual reality platform to see diagrams of their hearts.
The technology has deepened the educational experience for youngsters at Camp Taylor, a program for children with heart conditions. The images of the heart, which popped out from the computer screen, drew different reactions from the kids.
“I just want to touch it,” one camper said.
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“Whoa! This is really cool.”
Dr. Kavin Desai, medical director for Camp Taylor, worked with a company called zSpace Inc. to prepare the demonstration and make individual heart diagrams for the 92 children in camp this week at California State University, Stanislaus. Another group of 87 children will attend Camp Taylor next week.
The children first were introduced to the heart and its various parts and functions. They used a high-tech stylus to pick up the heart and examine the organ at all angles. By pushing buttons on the stylus, they could highlight different parts, disassemble the heart or look inside at the valves and chambers.
Another feature let them feel the heartbeat through the magical stylus. The campers were told to identify the heart’s anatomy, such as the aorta and left atrium, and ask any questions that came to mind.
Desai also showed each camper a diagram of his or her heart, with some of the images revealing a congenital defect or implanted pacemaker.
“It brings the heart to life under a three-dimensional model,” said Desai, a pediatric cardiologist for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University and for Kaiser Permanente-Hayward. “The heart actually beats when they look at it. It makes it real for them.”
With the knowledge, the children can take ownership of the health care they need to live with heart disease, he said.
Camper Riley Thompson, 12, said she enjoyed working with the virtual reality platform. “My favorite part was how it gave you a 3-D image of the heart. I had never seen technology that could do that,” she said.
Elizabeth Lytle, director of education for zSpace of Sunnyvale, said the system was introduced in the Los Altos School District in the Bay Area as an immersive learning tool. When the 3-D glasses are coordinated with special cameras, the flat images in the computer become unstuck and project from the screen.
Lytle said a partner company is developing a medical application that will load data from CT scans and MRIs into the computer. Doctors could use the 3-D images to plan coronary surgeries or other interventions.
Kimberlie Gamino, executive director and founder of Camp Taylor, said the simulation should make heart conditions seem less scary for the children and help them cope.