On a day to day basis, VRFocus is used to playing the latest videogames or apps in various stages of development, yet the virtual reality (VR) industry has grown to such an extent that plenty of heavily specialised content is kept under lock and key. So when surgical training specialist Precision OS offered the chance to take a look at its platform and how the future was shaping up for this area of the healthcare industry, it was a definitive yes.
Currently, in beta, the Precision OS platform wants to aid training of orthopaedic surgeons around the world, offering a cheaper solution which students can use again and again. In the present coronavirus situation, this kind of remote learning is even more impactful, especially for those in developing countries who might not have readily available access to traditional training methods.
Using an Oculus Quest, the app offers both solo and multiplayer training with VRFocus able to access a knee operation, and no you won’t find it on the Oculus Store. This was then further split down into two segments which provided step by step instructions to carry out the required surgery.
Having played countless gory VR titles – with a penchant for horror – the expectation that the app wouldn’t create any squeamishness was high, more so having seen screenshots prior to delving in. Testament to the level of detail this turned out not to be the case, who knew that drilling into a virtual bone then carefully sawing a little off the top would suddenly create a slight uneasy feeling.
Brushing that aside, the software takes students through the main components and tools of this process, selecting the various sizes of drill to slowly expand the bone cavity or choosing the correct depth to saw a few millimetres of bone away. This wasn’t by the numbers either, several stages provided options so there was always the chance of getting it wrong, taking too much away or not enough. Thus Precision OS perfectly showcased how useful this software is going to be when used in conjunction with more traditional methods as students can repeat the process endlessly.
Whilst not photo-realistic, Precision OS provides fine enough anatomical detail that those employing this type of software could happily step into the virtual theatre whenever needed to hone that knowledge, even when working within the constraints of Oculus Quest’s processing power. The main reason the software is on the standalone headset is versatility. Sure it could be made to look amazing on a high-powered PC running a Valve Index but that complicates the logistics of deploying training solutions to a wide audience.
This is especially so when considering the multiplayer, direct training aspect. It’s a crucial part of the software for both the student and teacher alike. CEO and co-founder of Precision OS, Danny Goel, M.D. helmed the session, noting that travelling across the world to help teach new students is both time consuming and expensive. Whereas in Precision OS – much like any remote collaboration tool – it was easy to chat between the US and UK, with the added benefit of being in a surgical theatre, stood either side of the virtual patient to learn about the procedure in greater detail.
After watching and learning from a professional it was far more encouraging going back into the solo mode to try the surgery again. At the end of each segment, you’re assessed and given a score. Hitting 85% on the first run through felt like an achievement, although there’s no chance of me changing careers anytime soon. While some of the finer surgical points were naturally lost on these amateur hands, there was one aspect that wasn’t, VR’s continued ability to demonstrate its potential through innovative use cases.