Using QuickTime Virtual Reality Objects in Computer-Assisted Instruction of Gross Anatomy: Yorick—the VR Skull

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QuickTime virtual reality (QTVR) is a software technology that creates, on a normal computer screen, the illusion of holding and turning a three-dimensional object. QTVR is a practical photo-realistic virtual reality technology that is easily implemented on any current personal computer or via the Internet with no special hardware requirements. Because of its ability to present dynamic photo-quality images, we reasoned that QTVR can provide a more realistic presentation of anatomic structure than two-dimensional atlas pictures and facilitate study of specimens outside the dissection lab. We created QTVR objects, using portions of the skull, and incorporated them into an instructional program for first-year medical students. To obtain images, the bones of the skull were mounted on a rotating table, and a digital camera was positioned on a swinging arm so that the focal point remained coincident with the rotational center of the object as the camera was panned through a vertical arc. Digital images were captured at intervals of 10° rotation of the object (horizontal pan). The camera was then swung through an arc with additional horizontal pan sequences taken at 10° intervals of vertical pan. The images were edited to place the object on a solid black background, then assembled into a linear QuickTime movie. The linear movie was processed to yield a QTVR object movie that can be manipulated on vertical and horizontal axes using the mouse. QTVR movies were incorporated into an interactive environment that provided labeling, links to text-based information and self-testing capabilities. This program, Yorickthe VR Skull, has been used in our first-year medical and graduate gross anatomy courses for the past two years. Results of student evaluation of the program indicate that this QTVR-based program is an effective learning tool that is well received by students. Clin. Anat. 13:287–293, 2000. © 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.