The Smart Magazine About Medical Technology Innovations

#34 - Next Generation Training

AR and VR to Enhance Training


HeartiSense relays how a trainee is performing to a smartphone app. (Courtesy of I.M.LAB)

Integrating virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) into medical training means trainees can practice procedures over and over again and achieve a superior surgical outcome.


In medical training, certain practices become so familiar it’s hard to imagine an alternative. A cadaver on a slab that students study and work on to become more knowledgeable about anatomy and hone their surgical skills. A plastic manikin laid out on the floor with a trainee hunched over practicing cardio-pulmonary-resuscitation (CPR). But tried-and-tested training methods are not immune to transformation from technology. In the medical device market, VR and AR are significantly changing how things are done.

“There are plenty of benefits to working with a cadaver. But when you integrate VR technology, the trainee gains so many more dimensions of assistance and instruction,” said Lindsey Grant, Communications Specialist at VirtaMed, a Swiss-based company specialized in high-fidelity virtual reality simulation for training of minimally invasive diagnostic and therapeutic interventions in various medical disciplines.

“Through limitless practice, he or she becomes accustomed to the reality of diagnostics and treatment, comfortable with the given space and maneuvers required for a spectrum of pathologies and procedures, and gets feedback on his or her performance and progress.” 


ArthroS allows trainees to perform simulated surgery on a selected part of a body. (Courtesy of VirtaMed)

One of the company’s flagship products, ArthroS, allows trainees to perform simulated surgery on a selected part of a body, while viewing on a screen the image of the inside of the (virtual) patient’s body as they work on it.

“Trainees don’t necessary come into this vocation with much experience practicing hand-eye coordination. With a simulator, you get to practice the same surgery over and over again in a safe environment,” said Grant. Founded a decade ago, VirtaMed has 100 employees with offices in China, Switzerland, and the United States.

Virtual Dissection Table

MOST, a Seattle-based company with its manufacturing facility in Taiwan, is also successfully integrating VR and AR into medical training equipment. MOST is the manufacturer of Bio-touch CAD-3D, a virtual dissection table. Launched in 2017, Bio-touch has already been marketed in Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey.

MOST Sales Executive Scott M. explained that: “Bio-touch takes data from real patients collected from CT scans and X-rays, regenerating it into a three-dimensional model.” This 3D image is displayed on the virtual dissection table screen, which the user can manipulate with their fingers and zoom in on a particular body part just like an iPad.

The benefit of a virtual dissection table is that it gives surgeons as much time as they want to plan surgery.

“Traditionally, surgeons look at X-rays, do an analysis, then open the patient’s body and start a procedure. But an X-ray does not give you the full picture of a patient’s situation. After beginning surgery, you can waste time figuring out what to do–for example, where exactly to put the plate and screws to repair a broken bone,” he said. The benefit of a virtual dissection table, he added, is that it gives surgeons as much time as they want to plan surgery before they actually open up the patient.

Each year, three million people die of acute cardiac arrest. It takes just four minutes for a person to die after they start arresting, so it is crucial that when CPR is performed, it is done correctly. Enter I.M.LAB, a Korean company responsible for the HeartiSense product line, which introduces VR and AR to CPR training. HeartiSense involves placing a sensor kit inside a manikin, which relays how a trainee is performing to a smartphone app that the trainee and trainer can both monitor during the CPR.

The Bio-touch virtual dissection table (Courtesy of MOST)

HeartiSense Immersion goes a step further, overlaying an image of a real person onto the manikin and projecting performance metrics onto the surface beside the trainee and manikin. You can even set it to a gaming mode if you wish. “HeartiSense Immersion puts the virtual patient on the actual manikin and provides the environment of virtual space that is integrated into real space,” explained Derik Jeon, I.M.LAB Marketing Manager.

Practicing Over and Over Again

HeartiSense uses features like changing facial expressions on the manikin to fully engage a trainee. The company began as a school project at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Jeon noted.

The unifying theme of all these innovations is the harnessing of VR and AR to allow trainees and surgeons to practice procedures over and over again to achieve a superior surgical outcome. “Pre-planning is the key to success in surgery. It’s a patient’s life. You can’t just start discussing what to do after you open them up,” said MOST’s Scott M.


Read more about virtual training simulators on MedicalExpo website.

About the Author

Brian Beary is an independent writer, journalist, and editor based in Washington DC. He writes for, and appears on, a diverse range of print and audiovisual media outlets.

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