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Changing the Paradigm: Training Surgeons with Virtual Reality

At MedTech Boston, we love companies that are using technology to reimagine the way physicians are trained. One new company, Osso VR, is working to utilize virtual reality headsets to improve the way physicians are trained on surgery.


Dr. Justin Barad

Osso VR’s founder and CEO Justin Barad’s interest in gaming began in high school, where he was the captain of his computer science team. Then, when his mother began experiencing health problems, he turned his attention to the intersection of health and technology. After graduating with a degree in bioengineering from UC Berkley, Barad completed medical school at UCLA, followed by a residency in orthopedic surgery.

It was during his residency that Barad became critical of the way budding surgeons are trained. “I’m not an astronaut, but I don’t imagine that they just tell astronauts to follow other astronauts around for a few years and then hope for the best,” he joked. “That’s kind of what they do with us.”

Toward the end of his training, when virtual reality systems for consumer use began gaining popularity, Barad had an idea for how it could be used to improve surgical training. “I immediately recognized its potential to change the paradigm—this apprentice style, medieval training system we’ve been doing for over a century,” he says.

So, Barad put his background in gaming and medical technology to use, and developed the first iteration of what would be Osso VR, a virtual reality based surgical training platform. He shared the idea with Matt Newport, now Osso VR’s CTO, and the two decided to form a company.

tibial-nailCurrently Osso VR allows users to simulate assembling and placing a tibial nail. Users put on a VR headset (the software is currently compatible with Oculus and HTC Vive) that displays a virtual operating room, and hold two controllers that track 1:1 with real-life hand movements and respond to these movements with haptic feedback that mimics the feeling of assembling and placing the nail.

Osso VR is currently running a clinical validation study at UCLA to prove the product’s efficacy as a training tool. They recently closed their first round of funding and currently have four employees.

In the future, Barad hopes to simulate many other surgeries, with a focus on using simulations to train people in the use of complex medical devices. “Medical devices are becoming incredibly capable, but they’re also becoming more complicated,” he explains. “You’re seeing older more experienced surgeons not wanting to try new systems because the training curves are getting to be too steep.”



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