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Teegan Lexcen’s doctors were at a loss. Born in August 2015 with only one lung and half a damaged heart, the Minnesota infant’s condition seemed undeniably fatal.

Then a $20 product saved Teegan’s life. A staff member at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami suggested Google Cardboard, a virtual reality device, to boost images of Teegan’s tiny organs into three-dimensional detail that made surgery possible.

It works with a cardboard mount, fashioned much like regular VR goggles, and a smartphone.

“He handed me this cardboard box, and I said, ‘What is this?’” said Dr. Redmond Burke, one of Teegan’s doctors. “Then he said, ‘Give me your cell phone.’” Placed inside this cardboard box, the smartphone application serves as magnification technology.

“I picked it up and I could see the whole heart,” said Dr. Burke. “I could see the chest wall, I could see all the things I was worried about in creating an operation.”

The operation was a success—thanks to the innovation afforded by virtualization, one of my Eight Pathways to Innovation.

Virtualization Defined

Virtualization involves taking tasks we traditionally perform in a physical capacity and shifting them into a weightless, virtual environment.

It’s much more commonplace than you might realize. For instance, not very long ago, you had your computer desktop on your computer, and I had my computer desktop on my computer. With virtualization, I can now access your desktop on my computer or vice versa.

It used to be that if a business needed several dozen servers, it had to buy them, configure them and maintain them. Now, the same business can launch the same number of servers in little more time than it takes to read this blog.

Virtualization will even be useful in convincing online clothes shoppers to buy with confidence. We’ve all been there. You see something in an online clothing catalog that appeals to you. There’s just one problem: When shopping online, how can you be certain that the item you order fits properly—the age-old function of the bricks-and-mortar fitting room?

Avametric is a fashion software company that has developed technology that incorporates sizing data into a virtual environment.

A quick trip to a “sizing booth” with your avatar allows Avametric’s technology to capture 200 data sizing points in just a few seconds. Create an account, and then you can use the data online to find perfectly fitting clothes with any retailer associated with Avametric. Here’s the Gap DressingRoom App developed by Avametric.

Better Teachers with Virtualization

First-day jitters are notorious among new teachers setting foot into a classroom for the first time. Among other worries, they wonder how to motivate students, particularly with regard to challenging assignments.

How can you encourage them to best manage their time? Thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Education and San Francisco-based technology start-up Mursion, education students at Stonehill College in Massachusetts are able to practice teaching techniques before they are in a live teaching environment.

The grant, awarded to the college in 2015, connected the school’s Education Department to Mursion’s immersive training platform. Using a simulated classroom setting, students now have the opportunity to manage a classroom, deliver educational content and practice interpersonal strategies in a reality setting to better prepare them for real-world classrooms.

Virtualization is also impacting the classroom beyond the realm of helping new teachers gain experience. A new generation of educators and entrepreneurs is turning the classroom concept on its head by adapting it to the digital world, ushering in a new era of innovative ways to teach and learn.

One of the organizations at the forefront of the transformation is the nonprofit Khan Academy, a free online education platform delivered on computers and mobile phones offering software, tutorials and video lessons on academic subjects from kindergarten through college.

It’s both clear and powerful. Virtualization can save time, money and uncover opportunities for innovation in most every field and industry. Ask yourself: What current function or service could you and your organization virtualize to leverage that sort of enormous opportunity?

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