Why Involve XR Is Better Training for Medical Workers

Virtual patients handle mistakes better

Key Takeaways

  • The Involve XR "sandbox," from Lumeto, is a next-generation virtual-reality training tool for medical students.
  • Students can participate in a simulated medical procedure in VR, or watch the demonstration in 2D on a computer monitor.
  • The patient, himself, is AI-driven, so he’ll react appropriately to whatever’s done to him, without any predetermined narrative flow to the lesson.
A person wearing a doctor's coat and stethoscope interacting with a virtual screen.

utah778 / Getty Images

The next time you see a doctor, they might have been trained in the Metaverse.

Involve XR is an "immersive learning platform" that provides medical students with an AI-driven virtual patient, as well as a flexible lesson creation program. An instructor and several students can enter the same virtual space to practice skills such as airway management, patient assessment, and mental health de-escalation, which can be difficult to train on the job.

Built in Unreal Engine by Toronto-based company Lumeto, Involve XR is device-agnostic, though it was built and tested via the Oculus Quest. Lumeto announced earlier this month that its software was selected to be administered to colleges and universities across Ontario, and testing is currently underway with the American College of Chest Physicians.

"We can see the potential of immersive training. There's a large body of scientific knowledge to back this up. Learning spatially in this kind of technology just works," said Raja Khanna, CEO of Lumeto, in a Zoom meeting with Lifewire. "You get to better learning outcomes. Now it's a question of 'How do you most efficiently deploy this?'"

The Next Generation of Fake People

Using virtual reality as a teaching tool is, by itself, nothing new. VR hangout programs like Rec Room got widely repurposed as classrooms during 2020's quarantine lockdowns, and even before that, medical students had been practicing on virtual patients for years.

The difference with Involve XR is that it's a "sandbox," to borrow a term from the gaming world. Rather than providing a specific pre-programmed set of lessons, it's built to be flexible and customizable. The simulation can be tweaked on the fly, without the need for code, with a special Operator Mode that affects the details of the patient and his medical issues.

Screenshots of a virtual patient interaction.

Lumeto

"We're essentially trying to leapfrog the existing types of applications in a few key ways...we didn't prescribe a teaching methodology," said Khanna. "A lot of other simulation training platforms will have a pre-defined branching narrative. There is no hard-coded curriculum in Involve XR. Those learners are free to screw up any way they want to."

The virtual patient in Involve XR is built using AI, so it responds appropriately and accurately in real-time to whatever's done to it, including the administration of drugs found within the simulation. Students can give the virtual patient any drug or perform any procedure that they think might be useful and see the results as if they'd been interacting with a real person.

"The opportunity here aligns with a lot of the technical capabilities of game engine software," said Kavi Maharajh, chief product officer of Lumeto. "Individually, you're going through the academic process, but the real test, the critical thinking happens when you put people together communicating around a patient."

"You're setting an outcome, setting an environment, such that they work together towards dealing with that outcome. The presumption is that you know what you're supposed to do. Now you're exercising it in practice."

Metaverse Medicine

In practice, Involve XR can be performed with a teacher, who has access to an Operator Menu that affects the terms of the simulation, and several students in the simulation who can interact with the virtual patient. Students also can go into the simulation by themselves.

An interactive lesson on Involve XR.

Lumeto

Additional students also can observe the virtual procedure in 2D simply by watching it on monitors, much like the observation room in a surgical theater.

"We're starting everything we're doing as training, practice, and assessment," said Khanna, "but it's not hard to draw the line from here to a world where it's actually real-time assistance through mixed-reality headsets in the ICU in a live environment. That's around the corner."

Lumeto also may open Involve XR to the public via the Metaverse at some point, in order to let laymen come into the virtual space, set up their own patients, and then try to save them. More importantly, if they do, they’ll be using proven medical science for the job.

"Everything we're doing is evidence-backed," said Maharajh. "We partner with academics and universities. We're focused very heavily on the learning outcomes. It's based on hard science. That to us is the most exciting thing."

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