group photo of participants at the Seattle Immersive Healthcare Hackathon

This past weekend, medical researchers and XR creators gathered at UW’s Center for Education and Research in Construction for the Seattle Immersive Healthcare Hackathon.

On Friday night, armed with headsets, biofeedback data collection systems, and caffeine, eight teams got to work building XR healthcare solutions. When I stopped by less than 48 hours later, an expo full of groundbreaking projects was well underway.

While working as Pixvana’s Marketing Assistant, I’ve loved learning about and engaging with Seattle’s XR community, especially in the intersections of tech, healthcare, and medicine. I’ve written about how virtual reality is being used to manage severe pain, treat PTSD and other anxiety disorders, teach women to make smart and safe sexual health decisions, and more, and I’ve talked to Embodied Labs’ CEO, Carrie Shaw, about her startup’s groundbreaking work on virtual reality human experience labs that use 360 video and Leap Motion hand tracking. These are some of the many incredible inroads that XR leaders, doctors, and scientists are making into advancing health and medical technologies.

Here’re a few reasons why I’m feeling more excited than ever about XR’s applications in health and medicine.


1. Doctors and scientists + XR hackers = magic.

Just glance at the list of prize winners and you’ll see why physicians, UX designers, sound artists, developers, and more made incredible teams. Also a diverse and skilled team, the judges were comprised of Tom Furness, Grandfather of VR; Pierre Mourad, Professor of Neurological Surgery; Rachel Umoren, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics; Trond Nilsen, Director of Development at Virtual Therapeutics; and MJ Herden, Senior Lead Scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington, DC. So who won what?

Feature Prize (Sponsored by the CDC) – Task Training for Public Health Procedures
CDC Respiratory Training in VR

Atlanta-based Scientific Consultant Tiffany Parris flew out for the weekend to mentor hackers and announce the CDC’s Feature Prize. The winning team created a VR training for the proper use of N95 respirators. When I asked why she chose to attend the hackathon and work on this project, hacker Tania Pavlisak exclaimed, “Learning doesn’t have to be too serious: it can be fun!” Layla Amin, another N95 team member, explained that she is a physics student learned Unity for the first time while working on the project. Layla built the Unity world in which users learn about proper N95 respirator use. Now, she says, “I want to get my own VR setup and keep building.” Tyler Rydosz, a film and music composer, created the audio track that accompanies the piece and instructs the proper use of the respirator. Rydosz enjoyed using audio in order to deepen the environment’s immersivity: “It’s fun to convince your senses that you’re fully in another world.” Their hard work didn’t go unrecognized — they’ll get the opportunity to share their project with researchers at the CDC.

Still from CDC Respiratory Training

Still from CDC Respiratory Training

Most Novel Interaction Design
Dynamic Motion Training

This team created a movement-tracking VR experience that teaches users how to perform physical therapy exercises, providing feedback when the user accurately completes their motion.

Still from Dynamic Motion Training

Still from Dynamic Motion Training

Shortest Distance between Vision and Impact

This team built an AR communication system that allows Medicare patients’ care teams to virtually test out and then order medical equipment for in-home care following hospital discharge.

Hackathon participant demoing cAReconnect

Hackathon participant demoing cAReconnect

The Project Everyone’s Talking About
Project Immerge

Interested in the potential virtual reality holds to make behavioral therapy interactive and fun, this team created Immerge, a game intended to supplement behavioral therapy for children with ADHD. When complete, the game will function as an interactive setting for preteens to develop coping mechanisms and increase their attention spans.

Image from Alchemy Learning.

Image from Alchemy Learning.


Ease of Use (So Easy, A Doctor Can Use It)

Inspired by a simple question – “Will I have a scar following surgery?” – this team created an AR app that doctors can use to show patients what their scars will look like as they heal.

StitchInTime Logo

The team designed this logo. 

2. Virtual reality and 360 video are already transforming healthcare and medicine.

Tiffany Parris, the Scientific Consultant who mentored hackers on their projects, is passionate about using XR for procedural trainings. “VR is critical for creating trainings that are consistent across the board, helps minimize risks, and is cost efficient,” Parris says. “With VR, you can practice as many times as you want until you feel confident.” 360 video, as Embodied Labs exemplifies, is a core aspect of health and medical trainings. How are doctors using it at their hospitals?


360 Video Surgery Livestreams

Dr. Shafi Ahmed, a cancer specialist at the Royal London Hospital, made history when he broadcasted the first ever live surgery in 360 video. Medical Realities, his virtual and augmented reality firm, focuses on 360-degree streaming and AR software. Livestreaming immersive videos of surgeries makes competitive surgical training accessible to students across the global, and the 360 degree view allows students to learn how the surgeon directs the operation and staff.

Play the video below to watch Dr. Shafi Ahmed perform a laparoscopic right hemicolectomy for cancer of the colon – please be aware that it is graphic.

360 Video Virtual Emergency Room Experiences

In the video below, Dr. Shay O’Mara asks, “How do we orient people to the chaos that the trauma bay seems like without putting them in the middle of it and being involved in patient care before they’ve even seen it?” At Ohio University, the Immersive Media Initiative has started answering that question by recording medial trauma bays in 360 degrees. Using this footage, The Immersive Media Initiative has created two 360 video experiences for medical students. Their aim is to create a library of accessible VR videos that document many kinds of trauma cases.

3. SPIN Studio makes it easy to manage, review, and share VR video for health and medicine.

Pixvana is working to enable XR creation, presentation, and experimentation in the healthcare space. SPIN Studio VR casting is the first-of-its-kind solution that lets anyone manage and distribute VR videos to multiple headsets. Leave the hours of tedious app development and awkward sideloading behind. It’s never been easier to immerse a classroom of students in surgical training, therapy, training, and more.

All you need is SPIN Studio, the SPIN Play app, and a headset.

  1. Sign up for SPIN Studio
  2. Upload and render VR masters fast in the cloud
  3. Create a SPIN playlist with one or more videos
  4. Instantly customize VR environments with 3D backgrounds and logos
  5. Download SPIN Play on the target device (available on Steam for Rift, Vive and Windows MR devices; Oculus for Gear VR; and Google Play for Daydream)
  6. Pair devices with SPIN Studio and you’re ready to cast!

About Eden

eden amital headshot

Eden earned her B.A. in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Scripps College. In addition to assisting with Pixvana’s content marketing and social media, Eden is serving an Americorps term in aging and disability services.


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