Learning about the eye with a virtual reality slit lamp
“I always like it when the immersion is so high that people forget that this is a simulation and do the exam as if it was real”
Dr Markus Schill sums up the effectiveness of his company’s pioneering virtual slit lamp device not with statistics or specifications, but moments where clinicians sit down at the device and put their hand out to where the patient should be.
“I always like it when the immersion is so high that people forget that this is a simulation and do the exam as if it was real,” the VRmagic chief executive officer explained.
Speaking from VRmagic’s base in Mannheim, Germany, Dr Schill told OT that while most people imagine a headset or 3D monitor when they think of virtual reality, the Eyesi Slit Lamp resembles the real thing.
“An expert who knows how to handle a slit lamp would sit down and immediately feel at home,” he shared.
“You can manipulate the device exactly the way that you would with a slit lamp. When you look into the microscope, you see exactly what you would expect to see if there was a real patient sitting in front of you,” Dr Schill explained.
With simulators for diagnostic training, we can provide a safe environment to examine and diagnose say, 100 patients, before you see your first real patient
This illusion is achieved by tracking the degrees of freedom that a slit lamp has, calculating in real-time the images that would be rendered and then displaying those images on the slit lamp.
The main hurdle that the development team faced was understanding medical pathology, Dr Schill said.
“I am a physicist by training and most people here have a technical background,” he observed.
This challenge was overcome by working closely with subject matter experts to collect the required data for each case of pathology.
When asked about the advantages of using virtual reality when compared to more traditional teaching methods, Dr Schill highlighted that to use a real slit lamp a second person is required.
“With simulators for diagnostic training, we can provide a safe environment to examine and diagnose say, 100 patients, before you see your first real patient,” Dr Schill said.
Students begin with basic device handling exercises before undertaking screening exercises where they are trained to spot key pathology.
“After that, there is a tier which is just a waiting room of random patients,” he added.
Students have individual logins for the device, meaning that they can sit down and pick up their training where they left off.
Dr Schill shared that VRmagic’s first products applied virtual reality to surgical simulation.
He added that this technology has been successful in the UK, with a surgical simulator in every deanery.
“Some deaneries have as many as four simulators. I hope the same will happen with the slit lamp,” Dr Schill said.
The Eyesi Slit Lamp has been in development for three years. VRmagic plans to release the slit lamp with anterior segment simulation in summer 2019.
Planned subsequent releases include a retina interface and gonioscopy simulation.