The goal of the Virtual Temporal Bone Project developed in the Virtual Reality in Medicine Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago was to develop an educational system that is optimum for communicating the complex three-dimensional spatial relationships of the structures of the middle and inner ear. Encased in bone, it is difficult to visualize the relationships of structures inside the ear. It is important for otologic surgeons in training to understand the position of vital structures (such as major nerves, blood vessels, and sensory portions of the ear), which cannot be seen through dense bone in the surgical field.
Virtual reality using the ImersaDesk system, supports enhanced three-dimensional perception through the use of stereo and viewer-centered perspectives. Networking support was built into the system to allow a master otologic surgeon in one location to instruct and interact with students anywhere in the networked world. The system enables users in two different locations to view a single model. Both users can rotate the model and both have pointers to identify structures in the model. The outer ear and temporal bone may be transformed into invisible layers, thus enabling users to have a clear view of hidden structures.