'It feels like you're playing' - radiology students using virtual reality to get practical experience

Christchurch's polytech is pioneering a world first training technique, allowing students to get practical experience in virtual reality.

The technology is being used to teach medical imaging students at the Ara Institute of Canterbury, but there are some big names on the waiting list.

It's not often a New Zealand polytech has an edge on Harvard, but they're just one of many institutions lining up for this ground-breaking tech.

James Hayes, a lecturer in medical imaging at the institute, says students are working in a simulation environment.

"But there's nothing different in this environment than there will be in the hospital. So as soon as they go in they're going to be technically competent."

Mr Hayes is also the mind behind the new software.

"I asked them could to make it so that it looked like a virtual reality x-ray room rather than a virtual reality game. And they said 'within reason, yes' and I said 'well let's not say within reason, let's say we want to make it identical'," he said.

It feels like you're playing, it doesn't feel like I'm learning - Canterbury student

Before this, training was performed on decommissioned x-ray units, but the new system is now moving practical experience into the 21st century.

For the students though, the technology is fun.   

"It feels like you're playing, it doesn't feel like I'm learning," one young woman said.

Mr Hayes said: "You could have students practising at the weekend. And what they don't do at the weekends is read textbooks. We know that from experience."

Usually it'd be too dangerous to x-ray unnecessarily, so a virtual patient is used.

"Radiation is quite dangerous, so we want to make sure our students are technically competent before they go out into the environment," Mr Hayes explained.

But using the headset, and a healthy amount of coaching, even a novice like 1 NEWS reporter Sam Clarke can be taught to produce a passable x-ray.

To do this procedure in real life the machine would cost around $750,000, but now for the first time students can go hands on in virtual reality, Clarke reported, still wearing the headset after producing an x-ray.

"And I can tell you from being inside it, it feels all too real," our reporter said.

Mr Hayes said the students "will have far more clinical experience when they get to the hospitals than they have before or anyone else in the world".

A bit of Kiwi tech and know-how is helping to make virtual learning a reality, Clarke reported.

Christchurch's Polytech is allowing students to get practical experience in virtual reality. Source: 1 NEWS

King Country residents feeling ripped off by huge electricity charge increases

A sharp jump in line charges has enraged King Country residents, with some charges up by 77 per cent. 

Pio Pio resident Susan Ngarotatata found out her lines bill is rising by more than $50, to $247 a month. 

"I think it's ridiculous. I don't understand how they can justify the price hike," she said. 

"What about the elderly, what the hell are they meant to do in the winter?"

Erin Wirihana's line charge has increased to $190, a rise of 77 per cent. 

"I don't think it's fair in one month's time to come up with this huge increase," Ms Wirihana said. 

"I can afford it, perhaps not comfortably, I didn't cater for it in my budget. But what about the people that didn't, what are they going to do?"

Residents also get a a separate bill from another company for the electricity used. 

They're trying to signal to us to use it when not everyone else is using it - Waitomo District Mayor Brian Hanna

The area's network operator is called the Lines Company, it stretches across nine per cent of the North Island from Te Kuiti to Ohakune. 

It takes a snapshot of customers' usage on winter evenings when peak pressure is being put on the network. 

People using a lot of power get a bigger lines bill the following year. 

Waitomo District Mayor Brian Hanna said the system is not communicated well by the lines company.

"They're trying to signal to us to use it when not everyone else is using it, which is difficult when everyone arrives home and wants to cook dinner and bath the kids at the same time," he said. 

The Lines Company points out for most customers, monthly bills are changing by less than five per cent, with some dropping. 

The pricing has been investigated by the Commerce Commission before, and now the electricity authority is taking a look. 

The Lines Company are also doing its own independent review where pricing equity, simplicity and transparency will be looked at. 

The report is due next month. 

The community is hoping for an end to its winters of discontent. 

Reviews are underway into the system used by a lines company in the region, which has previously been looked at by the Commerce Commission. Source: 1 NEWS


Fire size of football field blazing in Ashburton

Efforts to contain a large vegetation fire are underway in Tanks Rd in Ashburton.

Fire crews were called to the scene at 5.45pm.

A fire spokesperson has said the fire is the approximately the size of a football field.

There are currently two fire crews and four tankers on the scene but there is no danger to any people or surrounding houses at this stage.

Fire engine
Fire engine Source: 1 NEWS