5 Teams Changing Career Education: Meet Osso VR

This post is the fourth of a special “5 Teams Changing Career Education” series, featuring Q&A with the EdSim Challenge finalists. These solutions demonstrate the exciting potential for an ecosystem of next-generation simulations to strengthen in-demand career skills. 

Our fourth post features a Q&A with Justin Barad, Founder & CEO of Osso VR. Osso VR is a highly-mobile surgical training platform that enables healthcare professionals to practice cutting edge techniques through realistic, hands-on simulations.

Describe your first experience with VR or AR. What aspect of it did you find most compelling

My first experience with VR was completely transformative. It was the Oculus DK1 Tuscany demo, where you find yourself in a peaceful villa in Italy. I was able to get the demo working with some discontinued hand tracking controllers and once I was able to get my hands into the virtual world I realized just how important this technology was going to be for our field. I think what struck me the most about how unique this initial experience was is that my memory of that first demo is not something I witnessed passively, but something that actually happened to me. Even now writing about it I have a memory of being in that villa, like it was yesterday. It’s something that is completely unique to VR.

How will your concept help students prepare for future careers?

Our concept will help students prepare for future careers in three ways:

  1. Our realistic simulations will increase the likelihood that students will pursue careers in medicine and surgery they may not have previously been interested in. For example, in my field of orthopaedics, women are underrepresented by a shocking degree. As of 2011, 13% of orthopaedic surgery residents were female. In a prospective analysis in the journal Orthopaedics entitled: “Factors Affecting Interest in Orthopedics Among Female Medical Students: A Prospective Analysis,” the authors found that increasing exposure to orthopaedics to medical students before an applicant made their career selection improved their likelihood of picking that career. Through VR training we are able to provide that exposure to an unprecedented degree and in doing so address a critical issue that is endemic in many healthcare technical careers.
  2. Osso’s simulations will give students the technical skills they need to rapidly excel as they prepare and ultimately pursue their healthcare career aspirations. I am confident that we will see more and more VR simulations used in classrooms and on college campuses in formal curriculums. The critical threshold to cross to accelerate the adoption of simulation technology is to enable more efficient and economical skill and knowledge transfer than traditional teaching—a threshold we believe we have crossed at Osso VR.
  3. Osso’s simulations will engage students by giving not just the ability to see and learn about a specific career path, but to DO it, which can completely change the context and energy of a classroom based discussion. Experiencing a subject in a highly interactive manner is far more impactful than observation alone, and will lead to more stimulating discussions and career interest.

What’s the biggest insight you’ve uncovered through the Challenge so far?

One of our immediate takeaways is that high schoolers are an incredible source of blunt and honest feedback, which is awesome. Another takeaway is that the other finalists in the EdSim Challenge are stellar with great leaders and technologies. I’m sure we will continue to collaborate in the years to come. Finally, I think we all have realized that we have only begun to scratch the surface of the importance of VR for knowledge transfer – ensuring that the next generation will be adequately equipped to deal with the rapidly expanding challenges awaiting us. It is exciting to see the U.S. Department of Education apply design thinking principles to increase engagement and skill development for children and young adults.

5 Teams Changing Career Education: Meet Octothorpe

This post is the third of a special “5 Teams Changing Career Education” series, featuring Q&A with the EdSim Challenge finalists. These solutions demonstrate the exciting potential for an ecosystem of next-generation simulations to strengthen in-demand career skills. 

Our third post features a Q&A with Matt Anderson, Design Director at Octothorpe. His team developed The Irregular: A Mystery at Baker Street, a VR experience that uses critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork to explore skills related to success in STEM fields.

What inspired you to create this educational VR/AR experience?

The concept of The Irregular came about when several of us had fun solving a visual puzzle over coffee that had been making the rounds on Facebook, which you can view below.

After we solved the puzzle, a rapid conversation followed about why digital games have somewhat abandoned the joy of using deductive reasoning. There’s something going on in this puzzle that is largely absent in even more traditional puzzle game genres, such as Point-and-Click, or even classic Text Adventures. The above puzzle creates a deep understanding of an obtuse situation through visual clues and contextual information. After extensive concepting, writing, scrapping, re-concepting, paper prototyping and technical exploration, we originated an interaction model that facilitated this type of experience. Shortly after, the vast potential for educational use became apparent.

How will your concept help students prepare for future careers?

The Irregular is actually a framework for episodic content addressing different components of the CTE Career Clusters per episode. Every Irregular experience will exercise employability skills, such as applied academic skills, critical thinking, interpersonal skills, information use, and systems thinking. Our first episodes will focus in STEM, as we believe STEM undergirds success in many of the career clusters. Each episode emphasizes learning-by-doing, so the technical and academic skills will be directly pertinent to the associated career. Our testing of the paper prototype has shown that students are motivated to complete the content when wrapped in an engaging mystery.

How do you see your solution evolving over the next six months to a year?

Our technology, interactions, and visuals are just getting stronger day by day, and our understanding of how to create fun, engaging methods for learning in VR is always expanding. We have four points of focus over the next six to twelve months: improve the teaching methods in the Irregular framework, generate a breadth of episodic content, ramp up the engagement through impressive visuals and fun interactions, and work with our advisory board on ways to most effectively demonstrate teaching efficacy and relate results in an effective way to the educators engaging with the software.

5 Teams Changing Career Education: Meet Embodied Labs

This post is the second of a special “5 Teams Changing Career Education” series, featuring Q&A with the EdSim Challenge finalists. These solutions demonstrate the exciting potential for an ecosystem of next-generation simulations to strengthen in-demand career skills. 

Our second post features a Q&A with Carrie Shaw, CEO & Medical Illustrator at Embodied Labs. Embodied Labs is an embodied patient experience lab that uses virtual reality to train students to become better caregivers of aging populations.

What inspired you to create this educational VR/AR experience?                                           

Ten years ago, I was a freshman in college when my mom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. For her decade-long journey of cognitive decline and the caregiving that followed, I always wished that I could step into her world. I felt that if this were possible, I would be able to better understand my mom’s disease and become a more effective care provider for her. Five years into her journey with the disease, I was living at home and tasked with hiring her first in-home caregivers. My mom happened to have a left visual field impairment. I struggled to explain to her caregivers that it wasn’t that she couldn’t see out of her left eye, but that she couldn’t see out of the left visual fields in both eyes. I wound up making a pair of training goggles where I blocked the left halves of each side by tapping them up with masking tape. By putting these goggles on, her caregivers could immediately understand what she was experiencing, which empowered them to better care for her. They could immediately see why they should always walk on the left side of her body and the reason for her always eating exactly half of her plate of food at meal time. These goggles however, had a flaw – they could only simulate one aspect of what was a much more complex condition.

After teaching health education for about 5 years, I returned to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in Biomedical Visualization. My thesis research focused on this now nearly decade old question: If healthcare providers in training could step into their patient’s worlds, would this make them more effective care providers? As I was working on this research, I met the three people that would later become my cofounders: Tom, the developer, Ryan, the VR filmmaker, and Erin, the curriculum designer. We found a common interest in the potential of emerging technologies to create better communication between people, ultimately leading to meaningful change. While we were prototyping solutions to my thesis research question, we stumbled across the medium of virtual reality and realized it had the unique potential to accurately simulate the patient experience from a first-person perspective. Together we created The Alfred Lab.

How will your concept help students prepare for future careers?                               

Until VR, there has not been a tool that could as effectively place a person into someone else’s world nor a medium that is as able to accurately simulate the first-person patient perspective. The platform and VR modules that we are creating for this Challenge will situate the abstract, complex concept of understanding another person’s perception of the world in a way that will connect the students to concrete, real-world applications and uncover new insight.

The modules we are creating for this Challenge focus on educating students about the aging experience. Through embodying the first person perspective of a patient with vision, hearing, and cognitive impairments as well as observing patients through immersive, interactive 360-degree documentaries, students will learn how to deconstruct stereotypes of aging by taking the perspective of older adult patients with common age-related health conditions.

These experiences will help students understand the basic concepts around disease pathology and comorbidities of an aging patient as well as the challenges of spoken and written communication for an aging patient. These experiences will also give students exposure to a wide range of health sciences careers, including professions such as being a geriatrician, nurse, art therapist, social worker, optometrist, or vision rehabilitation therapist, to name a few. Through this exposure, students will be able to evaluate whether a career in healthcare is the right fit for them.

These modules will also teach students about several CCTC career ready practices. By embodying another person, the student will better be able to understand the life of someone different than themselves. This will give students the ability to think about decisions that are best for the community at large, rather than for only themselves. This experience will also give students the ability to learn communication skills that will help them engage with the aging population. Within the VR modules, students will experience that way the patient, the patient’s family, and the patient’s caregivers made up of doctors, nurses, and home health aides all work together the provide effective, team-based care.

5 Teams Changing Career Education: Meet the Case Western Reserve University Team

This post is part of a special series, “5 Teams Changing Career Education”, which features Q&A with the EdSim Challenge finalists. These solutions demonstrate the exciting potential for an ecosystem of next-generation simulations to strengthen in-demand career skills. 

Our first post features Q&A with Erin Henninger, Executive Director of Interactive Commons at Case Western Reserve University. Her team developed Holographic Applications to Transform Learning, an AR experience which uses holographic display technology, such as the Microsoft HoloLens, with multiple students to advance medical educational experiences and outcomes.

Describe your first experience with VR or AR. What aspect of it did you find most compelling?

Most of our team would say their first AR experience in HoloLens was life-altering. The idea that we can walk around with holograms in our world completely naturally—in our lifetime—still amazes us. But, the social aspects of AR are what we find most compelling. We love that you can have a shared experience and communication in the device—the fact that you can point to a holographic object and say to the person next to you, “Oh, see how this part intersects here?” You can explore and have a dialogue together, just like you do in the real world. So, not only do we gain this new 3D perspective, but we have a technology that makes us feel more connected to the people around us.

How will your concept help students prepare for future careers?

We think our concept will enhance students’ mastery of skills as well as their confidence in their abilities, in part, by simply helping them to visualize complex concepts in 3D. We can also help students build awareness and aptitude for working on the teams they are likely to be part of in their future careers through the social experience of augmented reality.  We can apply visuals and audio to create realistic scenarios to better prepare students for the conditions they will face in the field, as well as provide meaning and context for the skills they’re learning.

What’s the biggest insight you’ve uncovered through the Challenge so far?

One of the biggest insights we’ve gained is thinking about the scalability of technology. It would be great if we could equip every student in every school with the latest and greatest gadgets and tech tomorrow, but this isn’t realistic or sustainable—there’s always something new coming around the bend. When you think on this big picture level, you have to get more creative and clever with your solutions, but solutions are possible.