Insights: Case Studies

VR for Medical Professionals: The Toughest Critics Become the Strongest Advocates

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Melissa Herbold | Director of Marketing & Business Development | Elara

28 Jun 2019 | 4 min read

About Elara

Elara is a strategic & creative agency with 20 years of experience in the medical device, pharmaceutical and industrial markets. Elara produces digital content with a focus on 3D animation, virtual reality, haptics and interactive simulation for clinical education and training.

Elara's office

Virtual Reality (VR) experiences designed to educate and inform physicians, medical professionals, and students has quickly become a core competency at Elara. Alcon, a global leader in the medical device, pharmaceutical and over the counter eye care technologies, engaged Elara with the objective to develop world-class 3D visuals in an enterprise VR experience to showcase Alcon’s technology forward vision for clinical training and education. With clinical education and training as advanced as their products, Alcon wanted to create an experience that presented ocular anatomy and physiology in a VR experience, unlike anything the eye care industry had ever seen.

The Virtual Eye Experience was developed over the course of four months, taking the user on an amazing journey through various anatomical components and interactive training mechanics. VR offers physicians an innovative new approach to visualization and learning through immersive, anatomically accurate, interactive environments, but getting your average physician to engage in this new technology is an entirely different challenge. Roughly six minutes in length, the VR experience aimed to start a conversation between medical professionals about the future of clinical education and training.

Designing VR Experiences for Physicians

Bringing about visual fidelity to the Virtual Eye Experience in terms of both graphical excellence and anatomical accuracy was of the utmost importance to Elara. Many of the environments we explore in the Virtual Eye Experience have never artistically been examined in great detail, requiring exceptional research and multiple iterations of concept art to deliver a beautiful experience that physicians could easily recognize.

Understanding target demographics, and how to design your experience accordingly, is a critical part of any work. We presumed that a seated experiment wouldn’t offer many challenges to an audience of 40-60 year-old physicians, but an account of just how limited their range of motions would be inside of VR hadn’t been taken in to consideration. Our initial tests were critically important in identifying this problem: many in the target demographic simply didn’t move that much. Once a user of our demographic had their hands firmly resting in their lap, they didn’t bother to raise them again until the experience had ended.

As such, we had to simplify interactions and make our system considerably more sophisticated in an effort to give every type of user a memorable and engaging experience, from the most active user to the least active alike! In an effort to greatly reduce the complicated layout of the experience, we found ourselves having to change many of the control schemes in order to customize the experience for the target audience.

An elderly gentleman smiling probably after experiencing Elara's VR experience of ocular nerve

The final scene in the Alcon Virtual Eye Experience takes you into the optical nerve, placing the user inside a colorful fiber-optic pipe of twisting light. Representing the visual stimuli travelling through the nerve, this beautiful and compelling visual continues to astonish physicians.

Medical professionals looking super excited and pleasantly surprised while during and after Elara's VR experience of ocular nerve

The receival at ASCRS was better than Elara could have anticipated, with users admiring the amazing combination of medical anatomy and cutting-edge technology. Hearing physicians, eye care professionals, and Alcon staff alike commend  both the clinical accuracy and future of medical training was an overwhelmingly valuable and rewarding experience. Physicians immediately adopted VR as an effective medium for communicating complex medical concepts through a visual, immersive narrative. The positive reaction to the Alcon Eye Experience was a major accomplishment for Elara, as well as the catalyst for additional VR projects in 2018.

The Future of Optical Health and Training

To distribute and manage numerous VR experiences, Alcon required a capable and robust platform.  For efficiency’s sake, while simultaneously producing the Virtual Eye experience, our team constructed the Alcon Experience Center. Not only does this robust platform allow users to navigate and launch various VR content, but it enables global content distribution, analytics, and compliance control for each VR experience within the distribution center.

Since the inception of this project, Elara has been continuously developing clinical training and education experiences for Alcon. In 2018, in accompaniment to the Virtual Eye Experience, we launched six unique VR experiences within the Alcon Experience Center. With ASCRS right around the corner, we’ll be hard at work producing cutting-edge educational technologies to present to attending physicians.

An experience centre

At major steps within our production cycle, we meet with our clients to ensure that we’re producing the experience that best elevates their business. Allowing educated physicians speak and offer their feedback along the way has helped ensure that the anatomy and physiology is accurate. Elara is immensely proud of the work we’ve produced alongside Alcon. The opportunity to merge the cutting-edge technology of VR and the advanced methods of clinical education and training is beyond rewarding.

About the author:

Melissa Herbold is Director of Marketing & Business Development. Elara is a strategic creative agency developing creative digital content for medical device, pharmaceutical and industrial markets. Our work enables top brands to showcase their vision; transforming beautiful creative into innovative and agile digital content mediums including virtual reality, mixed and augmented reality, touchable haptic technology, 3D animations and videos.

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