Calling all coders: USC Center for Body Computing hosts ‘Hacking Virtual Medicine’ 2-day hackathon with ICT and IEEE Standards Association

Published: August 27, 2015
Category: Press Releases | News

October 3- 4 event to create a new medical experience evolution using Virtual Reality

Information for potential participants can be found at the event website.

Sherri Snelling at (949) 887-1903 or (USC CBC)
Orli Belman at (310 709-4156 or (USC ICT)

As an academic leader in the digital health revolution, the University of Southern California (USC) Center for Body Computing (CBC), part of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, announced today its first hackathon, “Hacking Virtual Medicine,” using Virtual Reality (VR) tools to create a consumer experience evolution in health and medicine. Software and hardware programmers, developers, and designers will join innovative engineers, clinicians, business people, and others for a 2-day marathon brainstorming and building event October 3-4. Held on the university’s Silicon Beach campus at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) in Playa Vista, five finalists will be chosen to continue hacking until October 8, when a panel of expert judges will award the top prize winner a $10,000 grant to further develop the concept.

The USC CBC hackathon, sponsored by USC and IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) with support from Akido Labs, USC D-Health @HTE and Doctor Evidence, will utilize the Google Cardboard smartphone viewer. Training and on-site support will be provided by the MxR Lab. MxR, part of ICT and the USC School of Cinematic Arts, is at the forefront of developing low-cost VR solutions, including the FOV2G0, a low-cost DIY smartphone viewer that predates Google Cardboard. The challenge is to take VR smartphone capability and change consumer behavior when it comes to health.

The USC CBC has developed provocative questions that need answers such as, “What will I look like in 20 years if I don’t stop smoking?” “Why do I need a colonoscopy?” or “Can a VR game teach my child about diabetic glucose monitoring?” Participants are challenged to think about role reversals between physicians and patients and to develop concepts that create an immersive experience that can help with difficult medical procedures or other health issues.

“Our digital health mission is to make the world more open and connected while also providing continuous monitoring and personalized care delivered remotely,” said Leslie Saxon, M.D., a Keck Medicine cardiologist and executive director of the USC CBC.

“Virtual reality is the new prescription in how we can treat patients – it enables consumers to adopt healthier behaviors and gain knowledge through their own experience. It’s an exciting time for anyone at the intersection of technology and medicine and this is just the starting point for a whole new approach to health care, added Dr. Saxon.”

Virtual reality is an emerging technology tool for physicians, surgeons, and other health care professionals to change the doctor-patient dynamic and empower patients to become engaged, to communicate, to connect, to share, and ultimately to be healthier – all through personalized virtual experiences. Diverse fields including medicine, psychology, neuroscience, and physical and occupational therapy are seeing evidence-based patient benefits from the advancement of VR.

“Immersive technologies can break down barriers – both geographically and emotionally – with some patients by allowing them to feel more empowered and in control,” said Todd Richmond, director of advanced prototype development at USC ICT. “By putting on a headset, consumers are transported anywhere without having to leave their physical location. We’ve seen success in using VR to treat patients with PTS and other mental health issues, to manage pain, to overcome phobias and even to enhance surgical training. With VR, patients can be more engaged, ultimately helping health care professionals become more successful in patient outcomes.”

“Virtual reality and body-computing technologies provide tremendous opportunities to deliver groundbreaking services by removing geographical boundaries, completely changing patient-doctor dynamics,” said Jay Iorio, director of innovation, IEEE Standards Association. “This approach requires new types of content, and providing an open environment for content creators from disparate industries to collaborate and innovate very early in the development process will ensure VR-enabled personalized health care reaches its full potential.”

Participants for the USC Center for Body Computing “Hacking Virtual Medicine” need to apply by the deadline: Monday, September 21 at 11:59 p.m. (PST). Entrants should have the imagination to dream up big solutions. The hackathon will provide sample clinical data, medical expertise, and some technical/programming tutorials for from ICT’s MxR Lab’s developer team. Individuals/teams who register should bring their ideas, design, art, and programming skills (Unity 3D game engine).

Each year the USC CBC offers a competition for designers, programmers, clinicians, and others to use digital tools to promote imaginative, innovative, disruptive, next-generation digital health products that empower consumers. Last year’s SLAM contest, sponsored by Skullcandy, was won by SingFit, a mobile music app that aids in therapy for those with everything from autism and depression to chronic pain and Parkinson’s disease. Previous year’s competition winners have included LumoBack, a start-up with a posture sensor, and Vampire Rancher, a mobile social gaming platform for children with diabetes.

About the USC Center for Body Computing Conference
The 9th Annual USC Center for Body Computing Conference is an event designed to bring digital and life sciences executives, sensor and mobile app inventors, strategists, designers,
investors and visionaries from health care, entertainment, fashion and technology together
for one day to showcase an international array of digital and mobile health ideas. Founded by Leslie Saxon, an international digital health guru and trained USC cardiologist who has spoken at TED MED and Wired international conferences, the USC CBC conference is her promise to make consumers “the heroes of their own health stories.” The conference will be held on the USC campus in downtown Los Angeles on October 9. For more information or to register for the conference, visit:

About USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT)
At the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) leaders in artificial intelligence, graphics, virtual reality and narrative are advancing low-cost immersive techniques and technologies to solve problems facing service members, students and society. Established in 1999, ICT is a DoD-sponsored University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) working in collaboration with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.. ICT brings film and game industry artists together with computer and social scientists to study and develop immersive media for military training, health therapies, education and more.

About the IEEE Standards Association
The IEEE Standards Association, a globally recognized standards-setting body within IEEE, develops consensus standards through an open process that engages industry and brings together a broad stakeholder community. IEEE standards set specifications and best practices based on current scientific and technological knowledge. The IEEE-SA has a portfolio of over 1,100 active standards and more than 500 standards under development.