Outreach and education
Dramatizations and simulations
Training scenarios developed by our group are described below. In most cases, we do not control the copyright for the final product and cannot distribute it. However, some of them can be purchased directly from the client. A description of the project and the purpose of each scenario with images is below. For previous non-scenario work, please see the archives.
1. Virtual Training for Spine Surgery
Fusion of the Lumbar 4 (L4) and Lumbar 5 (L5) vertebrae is a common procedure for sports injuries and aging spines. Most L4/L5 fusion procedures enter the body from the front, through the abdomen, or from the back, either straight on or at an angle.
TranS1 had developed a procedure that enters the body axially, just ventral to the coccyx. The procedure uses a route that avoids most critical tissue, and therefore has a far lower risk of several types of complication. However, because it was a new technology, was not yet well known.
The company developed a campaign to make spine surgeons aware of the new technology, and we proposed and delivered a virtual training as part of that campaign, designed for the HTC Vive to be used on a powerful workstation, and which could be executed by an individual alone.
In the training scenario, surgeons begin by making a small incision in the virtual patient's back. They are then walked through the procedure, as each tool on the tray table is used automatically in series, demonstrating the steps of the procedure.
The training scenario was demonstrated at a trade show for spine surgeons, where it was very well received. The project showcased the first use of virtual reality in subject matter specific way, and our group was interviewed for the conference trade show publication.
2. Girl Scouts in STEM Outreach Event
Using materials previously developed, we presented our work at an outreach event sponsored by the Girl Scouts of America, called Girl Scouts in STEM. The event was aimed at recruiting more girls into the STEM fields, and our simulations put them in a medical operating room. The scenario was mostly on autopilot and not meant to have high fidelity to technical detail, but was designed to empower participants by putting them in charge of an operating room.
Along with other exhibitors, we presented a unique experience for girl scouts. An immersive scenario that put girls in a simulated environment mimicking the real world counterpart, it was a very unique experience at the event, one of the first of its kind at the time. The event predated laptops capable of running the HTC Vive hardware required for executing the program, so our team packaged a full desktop workstation to bring on site.
The even was well received, and although some girls decided that a career as a surgical physician is not for them, several girls who had not previously considered it described how much they enjoyed it and thought they might pursue it! Several of the scouts lined up to run through the scenario multiple times. The event was a wonderful experience and our group was thrilled to participate.
3. Safety Training
Chicago's United Center is where the city's professional basketball and hockey teams play, the Bulls and the Blackhawks. The United Center was interested in improving security to be able to prepare for active shooter scenarios.
Our group was commissioned to develop a training exercise to help prepare for an emergency event. For this, we built a full mockup of the entire arena, including all office spaces, bathrooms, and anywhere a person could gain access to. The arena was populated with a large crowd continuously entering the arena that would have to be scanned for threats.
To build the arena, we partnered with vScenario, who used their drone technology to map out the entire building. We used this data from vScenario to reconstruct the arena structure with high fidelity. Structural elements, lighting elements, finishes, signs, furniture, and all elements of the building were built in this way, and then textured based on the images provided.
Working for Mobomo along with Egamea, the structure was also populated with virtual patrons. Bursts of patrons entering the building were added in a Poisson-like distribution, such that there could be dozens of patrons in any given moment, or a lull with very few. This was adjustable, and could be changed to a constant stream of patrons (limited only by the hardware used to execute the training scenario).
There was a low probability chance that one of the patrons would be loud and boisterous, possibly bumping into other patrons. That character represented an inebriated patron that was loud, but not causing trouble. For the purposes of the training exercise, this was a red herring, and was meant to distract from the primary objective of finding potential shooter threats.
At a much lower probability and no more than once, there may also be a potential shooter. Officers were on the lookout for unusual behavior, not described here. If a trainee spots an individual that may be a threat, they are instructed to radio for immediate assistance and, if the weapon is drawn, for the building alarm and police backup.
The scenario gives trainees a comprehensive understanding the entire layout of the building without giving physical access to sensitive areas. It also gives them some training around which signs to look for and some training to do so in the midst of a crowded situation. Finally, the scenario gives trainees exposure to an intense situation without putting them in harm's way, letting them train multiple times if needed, and in maintaining composure under pressure, even with rowdy patrons.
The project was designed to be used with an HTC Vive on a powerful workstation administered by a trainer. Upon completion, the scenario was commended and we were invited by the Director of Security to presented the work to a private event for NBA owners!
4. Medical Illustration Training
The process of designing and developing medical training materials was demonstrated for the Medical Illustration Program at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus. Students were shown the process of designing a scene for a specific medical procedure, modeling and animating it, adapting it to virtual reality, adding functionality, and testing it.
As the only virtual training module in the course, students were exposed to a novel medium, and all of its nuances. They got a hands on feel for when it's an appropriate technology, what the steps are to implement it, and which parts of it they might excel at.
Students were walked through the process of understanding the technology, understanding the goal of representing it through an illustration, designing a scene with environment and all elements that thoughtfully captures the intention, and shown the technical steps of designing and building in a 3D program, animating, and wiring things up through C# code.
Virtual reality was a novel way to describe things that are difficult to capture in other mediums, as is true for all of illustration. When applied appropriately, virtual reality can help to present material in much more intuitive ways than can be achieved with 2 dimensional mediums. However, like any visual medium, it is well adapted to some situations and may not be necessary in others, and different students develop an interest in the medium, while others do not. Presenting this work in the Medical Illustration course gave students a hands of feel for what it could do in the context of a use case to expose them to a potentially new trajectory for their careers!
5. Guided Meditation
"Executive coaching" is the practice of tailoring instruction to individuals in leadership positions. It typically involves a process of culturing a close relationship and developing trust, and one-on-one or group sessions to articulate and develop specific goals, as well as strategies for achieving those goals. Specific goals may include motivating others, public speaking, de-escalation of conflict, negotiation, and many other topics. Often, executive coaching includes a focus on mindfulness, self awareness, and the practice of understanding and articulating how one feels in thoughtful ways.
The Executive Coaching University is an accredited institution that prepares coaches for work in this space, and is among the groups with a strong focus on mindfulness. They have developed a training program and many materials for preparing coaches to work with individuals to develop a lesson plan and adhere to it or make amendments as necessary, and have developed a more robust virtual offering in recent years.
As part of their program and in keeping with their focus on mindfulness, the Executive Coaching University commissioned a virtual reality scenario to encourage meditation. The scenario was intentionally minimalist to encourage focus, and was designed to be used with phones (Android and iOS) quickly and easily.
In the scenario, the user is alone in an infinite, dark space. A transparent body appears before them and a gentle voice begins guiding the exercise. As the voice speaks and guides them through a "body scan" exercise (a form of meditation in which an individual checks in with each part of their body), a light source appears in the body and slowly and continuously moves down the body in pace with the vocal instructions.
The scenario gives the user a visual and auditory focal point to guide meditation, and helps them continue to assess their internal state. This practice was deemed an important component of being a "mindful leader," and was incorporated into their materials and distributed to all of their students!