Insights EDU

THRIVE – VR Medical Training With Volumetric Professionals

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Puk Franswa | Communications Adviser | 4DR Studios

18 Jun 2021 | 6 min read

How should medical doctors or medical professionals in training (trainees) act in an emergency? The simple answer is according to the ABCDE method. But what about everything else surrounding them?

Picture this – a mother of two children has collapsed on a street. The husband is panicking, while the daughter is shivering and frightened, and a toddler is crying. The medical professional not only has to take care of a mother but also a father, daughter and a toddler. In a profession, where seconds can mean life or death, medical VR training can put doctors’ and trainees’ medical and other skills through the test!

Schola Medica

THRIVE was initiated by Schola Medica, an emergency care education centre. Schola Medica develops and organizes emergency care education for their trainers and trainees. They use scenario simulation training in their education. During this simulation training, trainees are being prepared to act quickly and efficiently in medical emergencies.

In small groups of 6, the trainees are practicing their skills in a realistic, but safe, learning environment, that is called the Skillslab. It is essential that the trainees learn how to take care of trauma patients or patients with serious injuries and complications, while applying the steps of the ABCDE method*.

ABCDE method explained

Recap + A Realistic VR Environment

Some simulation scenarios are very difficult to recreate as real medical emergencies rarely happen in training rooms. For example, trying to recreate accidents that have happened in the accessible toilets, or on the streets during another medical emergency where bystanders interfered with the emergency services, is close to impossible.

To prepare students for realistic situations, the idea arose to use virtual reality (hereafter: VR) technology and environment in these training sessions.

‘It’s very important that the VR environment adds something useful to the simulation room on location’

Says Marnix van Gisbergen – Professor of Digital Media Concept at the Breda University of Applied Sciences and co-initiator of THRIVE.

‘The environment must be suitable for VR and not for other mediums. One that takes perspective and proximity into account. Therefore, a realistic environment was chosen, in this case an accessible toilet. An environment that is often found in a medical emergency situation.’

An accessible toilet is a small room (proximity) and an environment where medical professionals can easily get distracted and have to look around (perspective) constantly.

In this VR medical training, a medical emergency is simulated. Trainees are being digitally trained and tested to ensure they follow the right steps according to the ABCDE method. This is done by using a digital menu, which can be seen below. Because of the realistic scenario, the skills which are gained and improved during the VR training boosts medical professionals self-confidence. The trainees are then able to act accordingly and with confidence during a real-life emergency situation as they have been in one already during their training.

VR medical training scenario - accessible toilet

The simulated accessible toilet in VR (where the volumetric scenario will take place)


To apply VR to medical training in the best possible way, different (3D) technologies were tested.

The VR environment (the accessible toilet) was simulated, but how can you make medical professionals appear as realistic and as credible as possible? Perhaps avatars? Or a 360-degree video? In this case, a new 3D-technology, volumetric video capturing, was added to the VR medical training to capture the actors!

THRIVE joined the 3D research program Chronosphere, where the limits and possibilities of volumetric video capturing in a medical training context are being explored. As of today, there are no known results of this combination yet. But the future looks promising!

In this project, a 360-degree video is compared with a volumetric video recording for the first time. Within Chronosphere, THRIVE focuses on the differences between the two. The production processes, the experiences of the trainees and the effectiveness of learning with caregivers in a 360-degree video and in volumetric video are being investigated. The output of these results will of course be shared with the general public.!

Challenges and Highlights

‘One of the challenges was how many people could we film in a volumetric video,’

Says Gisbergen.

Could we film two, three or even four people? The recording area in the studio is in fact a circle with a diameter of 3 meters. So it was important that the actors were able to move in this specific area, otherwise, the 32 (!) cameras would not get enough information to capture the actors completely. For a realistic and credible capture – in which the medical actions can be clearly seen – it was possible to film a total of 4 people: the patient, a medical assistant, a doctor and a panicking daughter.

VR medical training production phase

An acted emergency scenario in the 4DR volumetric capturing studios

Another challenge was ‘learning how to act believable’, since not only actors were filmed but also real medical professionals. Behind the scenes it turned out to be a nice balance between the actors, the professionals and the Chronosphere team. Everyone gave each other tips and tricks to get the best and most realistic result.

‘During the recording sessions and when seeing the 3D videos, I was very impressed by the movements and facial expressions of the actors on the screen’

Says Monique Hectors – educational advisor at Schola Medica.

The difference between a 360-degree video and a volumetric video is that you can see space and depth within a volumetric video. Everything that is happening can be seen from different angles as the situation is captured by 32 volumetric cameras. Space and depth are something you can’t see in a 360-degree video. In a volumetric video, you can see every movement and emotion. You can see everything!

‘It’s like you are in the middle of this simulation with the volumetric professionals, which makes the VR scenario even more credible and realistic. It’s the right 3D technology for this VR medical training’,

Says Hectors.

The Final Phase

Right now, THRIVE has gone through both pre-production and production in the Chronosphere research program and has entered the final phase, post-production. After trainees have experienced the VR medical training with volumetric professionals, these experiences will be measured by means of an experiment. The different aspects of VR medical training will be measured in the future. Starting with the factors such as fun and engagement of the VR medical training. The effectiveness of the learning process and general experience of the VR training will be measured later as well.

The THRIVE project will be the very first innovative VR medical training with volumetric professionals! We believe that if one education centre dares to take a step forward, it can inspire others to embrace a new and modern education and training format! We cannot wait what the future holds for a newly found combination of volumetric video capturing and education!

This renewed VR medical training will initially be used for training purposes. More information will follow later!

*The ABCDE method is a working method in which life-threatening injuries are treated first, followed by secondary and tertiary injuries. The principle here is: “treat first what kills first”.


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About the author:

Puk Franswa is currently working as a communication employee at Dutch Rose Media, experts in Augmented Reality and 4DR Studios – the only volumetric video capturing studio in the Benelux. She is also responsible for Chronosphere, a research project where different project partners will explore the possibilities of volumetric video capturing.