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US Army to use virtual reality to train combat medics

22nd December 2023 - 09:33 GMT | by Flavia Camargos Pereira in Kansas City


The tool can be used in medical and combat simulations. (Photo: US Army)

The service is working with USC ICT to develop the OPUS-C BTE medical VR solution to train healthcare professionals in gunshot and blast trauma surgical techniques.

The need to have healthcare professionals prepared for deployment in battlefield conditions has been pushing the US Army towards investing in virtual reality (VR) tools. The branch has been working with the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) to develop a medical VR solution to train combat medics in gunshot and blast trauma surgical techniques.

Named OPUS-C: The Battle Trauma Engine (OPUS-C BTE), the system applies real-world data and reports from the medical literature to simulate casualties. It has been designed to realistically replicate behaviours for firearms and explosives, as well as behind protective armour traumas.

The solution can be used in medical and combat simulations, as well as in mass casualty exercises. It can be combined with physiological state-machine real-time simulations and provide realistic vital signs, symptoms and responses to medical interventions.

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Chinmay Chinara, programmer analyst for the USC ICT MedVR team, explained that it comprised the use of ‘smart objects’ and provided users with a ‘very naturalistic way of interacting’ with them.

The Battle Trauma Engine produced to date 70 patterns of injury which reflect common trauma presentations in recent conflicts. Every casualty has included a set of personalised medical references.

The next steps of the effort will include expanding capabilities to blast exposure and injuries. All scenarios will provide real-time physiological progress.

Starting in 2022, OPUS-C BTE has been funded by the Joint Warfighter Medical Research Programme and was built on the outcomes of the USC ICT Open Medical Gesture for Combat Medic Interactions (OpenMG 2.0) effort.

OpenMG 2.0 was launched in 2020 to advance the ability to use naturalistic hand motions to control virtual and mixed reality simulations with specific functionality for medical and surgical interactions. It enables touching, twisting, moving, throwing, pressing and using tools such as syringes and scalpels in virtual and mixed-reality environments.

‘Smart objects’ are intended to provide users with more naturalistic training. (Photo: USC ICT)

Chinara stressed that it was a device-agnostic platform that ‘gives much more realism’ and enabled the use of ‘hand tracking to interact with different virtual objects in a much more naturalistic fashion’.

Improving the deployment of VR tools in military training has been a concern for the Pentagon and its branches over the past few years. In its FY2024 budget proposal, the DoD requested more than US$20 million to progress the deployment of gaming technology and support simulation centres across its services.

The USC ICT, a DoD University Affiliated Research Centre (UARC) sponsored by the US Army, has been also working on the development of the Game-If-AI app intended to teach military personnel how to use artificial intelligence tools.

Other defence-related programmes carried out by the university include R&D efforts in computer graphics, geospatial sciences, human performance, learning sciences, modelling, simulation and gaming, and mixed reality.

Flavia Camargos Pereira


Flavia Camargos Pereira

Flavia Camargos Pereira is a North America editor at Shephard Media. She joined the company …

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