Press Release: New Medical VR Development Software
New medical VR development software helps 3D medical animation studio make highly functional surgical simulations and medical training content.
New medical VR development software helps a 3D medical animation studio create a surgical simulation that trains surgeons to properly perform an advanced total knee replacement method.
Extensive flight simulator training sessions are required for airline pilots before they are even allowed onboard an actual aircraft. The proven success of simulation-based trainings has led to it becoming a training requirement in nearly all industries where mission critical human errors are a likely cause of injuries, fatalities, or catastrophic loss. Unfortunately, an industry that is suffering from a significant shortage of simulation-based training programs and beleaguered by human errors that are responsible for as many as 250,000 deaths and costing the economy as much as $1 trillion annually in the U.S. alone.
Physicians undergo the most exhaustive training regimen found in any profession but are not yet able to benefit from the many proven advantages that medical simulations could provide. Even though virtual reality hardware is easily affordable and powerful enough to provide highly functional medical training simulations, there remains a glaring shortage of medical simulation content.
“The best development software available for producing VR content is designed to make 1st person shooter video games, not a surgical procedures,” said Stephan Kuslich, the CEO of Ghost Productions, a company known for pioneering the field of 3D computer animated medical media for the leading surgical device and pharmaceutical companies. Based on the number of requests from its clients, Ghost Productions is convinced that the medical VR market exists, but the development tools and properly trained professionals do not. Virtual reality media requires the use of a development tool known as a game engine. While the two largest competitors in the field, Unity 3D and Unreal, have created extremely powerful tools for creating expansive environments and expressive 3D characters to engage video gamers, there are few helpful tools to aid developers in the creation of an accurate simulation of a surgical incision. To make matters worse, game engines require the skills of highly trained software development professionals who rarely have adequate anatomical knowledge needed to produce medically accurate medical simulations.
Medical animation studios like Ghost Productions, Xvivo, Random 42, and Hybrid are often staffed by medical illustrators and animators have extensive anatomical knowledge, but lack VR game programming skills and the VR game developers lack the medical knowledge. That and even the simplest surgical procedure requires 6 months of wrestling with development tools to produce a viable VR medical training program. This means that VR content is going to be extremely expensive and limit production significantly. Even if the top 10 medical animation studios converted all of their focus to VR, it still wouldn’t put a dent in the thousands of VR programs required by just one of the larger medical companies like Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, Stryker, or Zimmer.
Need being the mother of all invention, the founders of Ghost Productions opened a skunkworks development division in the lowest level of their St. Paul studio and got to work on a software product
designed to reduce the time and expense of creating medical VR content by 1/4th. Codename: Wraith VR, is a specialized series of software tools that provides medical VR content with key features missing in traditional development software. In a test of one of these tools, the painstaking process of rigging the fingers to properly grip a virtual medical tool with a virtual hand was fully automated using motion capture to automatically reproduce the actual grip used for various objects needed in the operating room. This single advancement saved 163 hours of development time for creating a surgical procedure using 25 different objects and devices. This, and 13 other medical VR authoring automation tools are currently being designed and tested to reduce time and high-level programming skills needed to make VR content.
An example of a VR surgical training program produced using beta versions of these development tools can be downloaded here. The VR training simulation which runs on most leading VR headsets teaches surgeons how to properly perform a total knee replacement using an advanced technique using a surgical robot that measures the patient for a customized fit of a new artificial knee.
Ghost has submitted a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation to create a procedurally generated 3D anatomical model of the human spine and associated tissues. If their grant is approved, the resulting software will be able to automatically generate simulation-ready virtual anatomy customizable based on patient criteria like age, bone density, sex, height, weight, and pathology such as tumors, degeneration, and fractures. The resulting, fully customized 3D model will be capable of allowing even non-programmers to produce powerful interactive VR simulations in a fraction of the time required by traditional development methods.
The development team at Ghost Productions dreams of a day when VR training units are commonplace in hospitals, training centers, and even in the private homes of doctors around the world. Doctors and nurses everywhere will simply log in, find a training simulation, and practice as much as they want with a virtual patient with the ideal pathology. Stephan mused, “VR is going to put a lot of cadavers out of work, and may they rest in peace.”
OS: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1 or later, Windows 10
Processor: Intel Core i5-4590/AMD FX 8350 equivalent or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or better
Headset: Requires Virtual Reality Headset
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060, AMD Radeon RX 480 or better