"We're really at the very beginning of this field," Martin said. Quality checks are being adjusted and many risks have not even been defined, he said. "There's going to have to be a much higher level of evidence required" before virtual reality is reimbursed in medicine.
Addressing another potential problem, Hong said she "absolutely" worries that practitioners could be overstimulated by such technologies. (Users of virtual reality games have reported feeling nauseated, for example.) Training should help, she said. Hong, a critical care anesthesiologist, became comfortable using the intubation tube over one weekend.
Many augmented and virtual reality medical tools still need FDA approval, regulations and venture capital before becoming clinically available. Murthi said the Maryland group's augmented reality tools, for example, could be ready within a year, but companies are skittish and don't foresee enough return on their investment to dive in as aggressively as they are funding virtual reality in gaming.
"Within one year, it will be available in some format," Murthi said. "How it will take hold is harder to tell."