News

Overnight hackathon shows the promise of virtual reality as a health care tool

October 9, 2015

Event sponsored by USC Center for Body Computing, USC Institute for Creative Technologies and IEEE Standards Association delivers digital tools to improve health

They didn’t sleep. But they did dream big.

During an overnight event held at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, teams of biomedical engineers, computer scientists, physical therapists and even toy designers took part in “Hacking Virtual Medicine,” a design, development and coding marathon that challenged participants to create virtual reality health care solutions for patients and providers.

Using game design software and smartphones enhanced with cardboard 3-D viewers on Oct. 3-4, six teams addressed problems of disease management, social isolation, on-the-job training and doctor-patient communication.

“Virtual reality provides the perfect medium to explore these areas, and I was blown away by what the participants produced,” said Leslie Saxon, a Keck Medicine cardiologist and executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing (CBC), which organized the hackathon. “This event showed the promise of virtual reality as a health care tool and also the power of technologists, scientists, artists and health care professionals joining forces to tackle problems in unexpected ways.”
Presenting prototypes

To build empathy — and encourage treatment compliance — a USC team simulated what diabetic patients might experience if they lose their eyesight due to disease progression. California Institute of Technology contestants captured the chaos of a code blue emergency in a hospital room to prepare budding physicians before they experience the real thing. And a trio with day jobs at the Walt Disney Co. designed a way to immersively display internal organs so doctors can better explain what is going on inside of bodies.

“Virtual reality used to be out of reach in terms of cost and capabilities, but that is no longer the case,” said Todd Richmond, director of advanced prototype development at ICT. “The challenge now is discovering how to craft content and create experiences that matter. Hacking medicine is a great place to start.”

Read the full story at USC News