At ortho meeting, VR companies announce industry-advancing partnerships

OssoVR is working with Smith & Nephew to make a training program for robotic surgery, while FundamentalVR is working with VR glove-maker HaptX.
By Jonah Comstock
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A HaptX glove.

Two virtual reality companies focused on surgery, Osso VR and FundamentalVR, announced major partnerships this week at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting in Las Vegas.

Palo Alto, California-based Osso VR announced a partnership with medical device technology company Smith & Nephew. Osso VR will build a custom training module Smith & Nephew’s NAVIO Surgical System, a handheld robotics-assisted device for knee anthroplasty.

London-based FundamentalVR, meanwhile, has teamed up with HaptX, a company that makes gloves that allow VR programs to incorporate a user’s full range of finger and hand movements.

Why it matters

Both announcements reflect steps forward for the virtual surgical training space. Osso VR’s partnership illustrates a use case and business model for the technology, partnering with medical technology companies to enhance their surgical offerings.

FundamentalVR’s introduction of more comprehensive and realistic tactile feedback could open the door for virtual surgery training to be used for more complex procedures.

For example, the company wrote in a statement “it enables a very detailed interaction with a patient during an Anterior Total Hip Arthroplasty, allowing users to feel the presence of boney growth around the rim of hip socket in addition to identifying a key ligament that helps orientate a surgeon in the next few critical steps.”

“The ability to touch and interact naturally with virtual environments is transforming the way industries train workers and bring products to market,” Jake Rubin, founder and CEO of HaptX said in a statement. “The healthcare industry is at the forefront of this shift, and it’s set to be transformed by advancements in VR and haptics. We are delighted to be working with Fundamental Surgery as our first medical partner to demonstrate how HaptX Gloves can make surgical simulations more immersive and effective.”

What’s the trend

Virtual reality use cases in healthcare are diverse, ranging from fighting phantom limb syndrome to working as an alternative to narcotics for pain relief in some patients.

But surgical training has been one of the most prominent focus areas for companies like Osso VR, FundamentalVR, and Giblib, which offers non-interactive training via virtual recordings of actual surgeries.

At HIMSS19, Dr. Robert Louis, director of the skull base and pituitary tumor program at the Hoag Neurosciences Institute, demonstrated how virtual reality could improve both patient experience and procedure outcomes at his practice.

On the record

“NAVIO is a natural fit for virtual training and assessment as it involves robotics-assisted surgical steps coupled with a novel software interface, and Osso VR has demonstrated success instilling confidence in the technology of similar procedures,” Dr. Justin Barad, CEO of Osso VR, said in a statement. “As this technology becomes increasingly powerful and pervasive, we plan to continue to support its growth through a growing curriculum of virtual training. Smith & Nephew is the perfect partner for this groundbreaking approach given their dedication towards innovation and helping patients live life unlimited.”

“When it comes to surgical training simulations, a sense of touch is a game changer, but has traditionally only been possible with immobile equipment costing hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Richard Vincent, CEO of FundamentalVR, said in a statement. “The Fundamental Surgery platform delivers highly sophisticated tactile feedback at a fraction of the cost through a software approach that can work with a range of haptic devices. Our platform currently works with haptic arms, but is designed to evolve as hardware innovations allow new products such as HaptX Gloves to come to market. We are proud to work with industry leaders such as HaptX and are excited to demonstrate how HaptX Gloves integrated into our Surgical Haptics Intelligence Engine takes the sensation of surgery to an exciting new and natural level.”