A Publication of WTVP

A new piece of hardware is being developed to enhance simulation and other types of virtual reality software.

You’re an orthopedic surgeon heading into the operating room for a delicate spinal surgery. You prepare yourself for the sight of the patient. Once inside the operating room, you look around and see the surgical tools, operating table and a giant spine lying on the table. You dive inside the spine and fly through it, experiencing every bend, curve and anomaly. If you think it sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, you would be wrong. It’s reality. Virtual reality, that is.

Research to Reality
CSE Software of Peoria is conducting research on a new type of hardware for a head-mounted display (HMD), known as the Oculus Rift, to enhance simulation software or other types of virtual reality software. A head-mounted display is a display device worn on the head or as part of a helmet, with a small display optic that allows the wearer to be immersed in a simulated setting in order to fully experience a situation. While simulation is most often used for training or educational situations that are too expensive, too dangerous or impossible to replicate in real life, many other commercial uses could be developed for this type of virtual reality experience.

The lightweight, head-mounted hardware features a display screen with lenses positioned over the eyes to provide a 90° horizontal, 110° vertical, stereoscopic 3D perspective. The headgear’s view fills most of the user’s field of view, creating a strong sense of immersion into a scene, and the software is specifically developed to work correctly with the HMD. Anyone who views the software on a monitor with the naked eye (without the HMD) will see side-by-side versions of the picture—these slightly different images are combined in the user’s brain to give the perception of 3D depth. In addition, the HMD is so intuitive it can detect when the user leans forward or backward, or makes any other kind of head movements.

Game-Changing Tech
Like simulation, HMD has roots in the gaming world. Though often referred to as “video games,” simulations go well beyond the scope of a game, including not only entertainment value, but educational value as well. By definition, simulation is a computerized version of a setting, modeled after a real-world environment, for the purpose of training or entertainment. The category of “serious games” encompasses the educational side of simulation, meaning teaching, training and informing the user of how to perform some complex task or experience. Simulation allows users to learn in a virtual environment, using the same techniques and processes they would apply in reality, without the fear of accident. With the addition of an HMD, users can live inside the virtual world instead of just watching on a screen.

In the medical community, the dangers are life and death—with many unknowns at every turn. For a doctor to be able to experience a patient profile before beginning surgery is a huge benefit. Experiencing the surgical view in virtual reality before experiencing the actual surgery means doctors can better prepare for the surgery, knowing ahead of time any areas of damage or disease before uncovering them during the procedure. This type of virtual reality is also being tested for certain therapies, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. By exposing patients to scenarios in a virtual setting, they can help reduce the symptoms of PTSD. Though the R&D is in its early stages, other types of phobias or anxiety disorders could also potentially be treated through this type of technology.

Redefining the Boundaries
At the forefront of CSE’s R&D are 3D programmers Andrew Pittman and Brandon Reynolds, who collaborated to create the virtual operating room and spine fly-through. The simulated scene is built on a gaming engine platform, and because the technology is so new, the programmers worked closely with the gaming engine manufacturer while writing initial code.

Reviews are ongoing with local medical professionals for feedback, and the preliminary outcomes are promising. Because CSE has already created environments for heavy equipment simulators, the programmers also created virtual construction, mining and forestry environments in order to conduct further R&D around the heavy equipment developed and simulated for Cat Simulators systems.

In addition to healthcare and heavy equipment, the development team is conducting R&D for architectural use. Imagine being able to walk through a newly constructed building… before it’s built. Ceiling and counter heights, hallway and staircase widths, room sizes, finishes and more could be experienced by the client before construction ever begins. Being able to bring flat blueprints to life as a dimensional vision can help bridge gaps in communication and understanding, and save potential dollars for architects, builders and clients alike.

Peoria’s own CSE Software continues to redefine the boundaries of reality. By integrating gaming advancements into simulation technologies, training and education—and even clinical outcomes—will be improved for many people. In other words, the rest of the world will be the benefactor of this local company’s success. iBi

Annette Bailey is the marketing strategist for CSE Software Inc. and Simformotion LLC. For more information, visit