Virteasy Dental is a VR and haptics-based dental simulator used for training dental students in more than 30 universities around the world. It covers: restoration, endodontics, prothodontics and implantology (with implant planning software).
We deployed the first Virteasy simulator in 2015 and since then, it has grown into connected simulation which can be combined with multiple units, a secure server and a teacher station to have modern simulation suites using haptics based technology.
The simulator allows students to perform virtual treatments on virtual patients – but, importantly, capable of using REAL patient data through the use of CT and intra-oral scans. This important feature allows universities to help close the gap between pre-clinical and clinical training for students.
Haptic Technology in Dental Training
Using the high-fidelity Touch X haptics from Geomagic (https://www.3dsystems.com/haptics-devices/touch-x) provides the magic behind the touch. The motors within the arm allow us to replicate the feeling of drilling through multi-densities like enamel and dentine which offers students a much more realistic experience than using a single-density plastic tooth on a phantom head inside a traditional simulation suite.
Virtual Reality (VR) Technology in Dental Training
One of the things that sets Virteasy apart from most dental trainer simulators is going beyond the traditional STL teeth floating in 3D spaces or in a simple jaw or typodont, and bringing a full virtual environment and patient into the learning environment.
This helps provide the context to the learning objectives. After all, when students become doctors, they will be treating patients and not simply their teeth. It’s important to bear this is mind so that we don’t become too detached from the patient’s experience during and after treatment.
The virtual environment is enhanced by using an active 3D monitor to give a sense of depth-perception. The parallax (distance between the two images for the left and right eyes) can be augmented to increase the depth perception, but we also need to be mindful of the sensitivity some people have to enhanced images.
Using Real Patient Scans (DICOM and STLs) in Dental Training
With Virteasy Editor, we are now capable to use patient scans in DICOM and multi-STL format to create new case studies for students to practice on.
Most simulators use a single-STL import from intra-oral scans which creates an exo-skeleton of the teeth. The limitation with this is that it’s a single density much like a single-density plastic tooth we might use on phantom heads. Thankfully, with multi-STL support, we can now use intra-oral scans to provide a simulation which has a different density for the enamel and the dentine.
From March 2020, we’re now able to go even further and design a caries shape and integrate this with the intra-oral scan.
Equally, using multi-STL support we can create a target area for prosthodontics and endodontics, too.
Virtual Reality (VR) Head Mounted Display (HMD) Technology
Thanks to a partnership with Epic Games (https://www.epicgames.com/) through their Mega Grants fund (https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/megagrants), we are testing Virteasy Dental using a VR HMD to offer a fully immersive experience.
VR HMD & Haptics
The sense of sight combined with the sense of touch and even head movement will allow a totally immersive training experience.
In our demos and testing sessions, even the virtual environment without haptics was enough to immerse students fully in the experience to the point that they believed they were capable to interact with all of the assets in the scene, just as they could in the clinic.
The difficulties in implementing VR HMD
Can a simulation be too immersive for educators? This is one of the questions we’re working on, is that if students were to use VR HMD’s in a classroom settings, how can we provide interaction with the teachers. Equally, how can the teachers track what the students are doing in real-time and prompt them as needed.
One of the other areas of questioning is the ultra-realism of training environments. Whilst the realism helps provides a framework for the real clinic, it also requires an attention to detail to ensure that everything works and interacts exactly as it will in real life to not give a false premise to the learning. With semi-realism we can easily teach abstract ideas which can they be implemented in real life situations pragmatically. As we progress to ultra-realism and immersive experiences, early testing seems to show that people try to make real-life situations fit into their immersive situation as opposed to the other way round and applying abstract learning to real life variants.