Yesterday, Level Ex, a recently acquired company best known for its selection of specialist education video games, unveiled a new multi-user surgical training product that runs inside of a mobile or desktop web browser.
Called Virtual Technique Guides, the simulation software allows users on separate devices or different locations to collaboratively run through surgical scenarios via cloud-based remote play. It's an up-and-coming service model in the commercial video game industry where players stream and control software that is run on a remote server.
According to the company, this approach allows surgical device sales representatives to train surgeons on new products, regardless of their physical location, without needing to end their video conferencing call. Participants click a link or scan a QR code, and then are placed into the training tool, without needing to download and install any software.
The tool "supports thousands of medical procedures" across 27 surgical specialties and subspecialties, according to the company. These simulations are designed to respond realistically to the user's actions, replicate device movements "down to the micrometer with multiple degrees of freedom," and include visible-light, X-ray, ultrasound, CT and MRI visualizations, according to the launch announcement.
WHY IT MATTERS
With COVID-19 limiting long-distance travel and in-person meetings, Level Ex's offering is a socially distant way for teams to collaboratively train with new surgical devices or reinforce their skills for an upcoming procedure.
The low barrier to entry granted by the cloud-based design allows surgeons to do so on the device of their choosing – and makes it easier for the game developer's medical device clients to help troubleshoot any issues a surgeon is having with their products.
"In 2019, we saw the next opportunity to transcend the limitations of smartphone hardware: We began making substantial investments in cloud-gaming technology to enable more realistic simulation by leveraging compute resources in the cloud,” Sam Glassenberg, founder and CEO of Level Ex, said in a statement.
“When COVID-19 hit, this investment proved more important than we could ever have imagined. We had the capability to recreate that critical training dynamic between the surgeon and their sales rep seen in the physical OR.”
THE LARGER TREND
Glassenberg forecast his company's increased focus on the surgical-device space in June, when Level Ex was acquired by German surgical technology firm Brainlab. That deal allowed the game-maker to maintain its independent operations, but expanded its reach to new customers. It opens up an avenue for collaboration with Brainlab's various digital projects.
"They have a digital OR where different medical devices can integrate so they can be tracked," Glassenberg said at the time. "So, inside the operating room you get to see where the device is inside the patient by looking at the imagery. For us, we can use our video game technology and video game design to not only help doctors train on those devices and understand how to use them, but develop their skills on a virtual patient."
Outside of its mobile games for cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology and airway procedures, Level Ex recently released free additions to two of its respiratory-focused games, which were designed to help providers prepare for challenging COVID-19 patient scenarios.
The company also has an ongoing project with the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine that's focused on building virtual simulations showing how routine medical procedures can be upended during low-gravity.