Have you ever trained in a medical simulation lab and felt the stiff mannequins and repetitive scenarios were outdated? Ryan Ribeira, an Emergency Medicine resident physician, wants to change this. He is the CEO of SimX, a Silicon Valley-startup that aims to bring virtual reality and augmented reality to medical training. I recently interviewed Ryan about SimX, emerging technologies, and the interesting approach he is taking towards simulation education.

Q: Ryan, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Can you briefly describe your company, SimX, and what it hopes to offer for healthcare training?

Ryan: SimX offers cutting-edge, customizable simulations for training. SimX can project virtual patients to any empty space, be it a hospital bed, classroom table, or even a countertop, and run medical simulations on it. It can replace mannequins with virtual, completely customizable patients. Cases may be done by individuals, or even by groups of trainees at the same time.

Q: SimX’s early promotional material focused heavily on the use of augmented reality (AR) rather than virtual reality (VR) for medical simulation training. Tell us about the design decisions behind that choice.

Ryan: In the past, VR hardware was too limiting, so we initially picked AR instead. We used a smartphone camera in a headset, tapping into an available camera, and projecting the view with marker tracking technology to the viewer’s eye on screen. While this worked, it was very taxing to the phone (virtual content plus streaming actual video feed). In the end, this is simply too taxing and potentially choppy with current phones. Since then, we’ve stuck with mobile devices in a headset, but moved to VR from AR. We’ve been working with Sixsense mobile VR tracking with great results. This includes hand controllers, base stations, and headtracking, and only requires one plug in. Some of our customers actually prefer the VR version, as it is easier to adjust for custom scenarios, such as inside of a helicopter or in a grocery store.

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