Virtual Heroes is getting serious about providing 3D-based, interactive healthcare training, teaming up with Duke University for a new simulation program.

This latest initiative from the RTP-based serious game developer is an interactive healthcare team trainer called 3DiTeams, which has been designed in collaboration with faculty from Duke University Medical Center.

The training technology, which utilizes Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 2.5, was developed with funding from the U.S. Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center. The program is based on a healthcare team coordination curriculum called TeamSTEPPS, developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

“We are excited to use our instructional design expertise, HumanSim technology and creative talent to help Duke University create this interactive training game to be used for hospital professionals,” said Jerry Heneghan, Virtual Heroes’ chief executive officer. HumanSim is Serious Games’ simulation technology that closely mirrors human ability and motion.

3DiTeams will be used to train Duke medical and nursing students beginning this month. The capabilities of 3DiTeams will also be presented this spring as part of the program during the fourth annual Games for Health Conference and the Advanced Learning Technology Summit.

“Effective team coordination is critical for the safe delivery of healthcare. Development of these skills requires training and practice in an interactive team-based environment,” said Jeffrey Taekman, MD director of Human Simulation and Patient Safety at Duke Medical Center. “Virtual Heroes worked with us to create a high-fidelity, multi-user, real-world, hospital simulation in a video game setting that is based on real science.”

The training technology was designed to maximize team synchronization and skills proficiency to help reduce medical errors. The goal of 3DiTeams is to emphasize learning-by-doing and provide training-to-proficiency in rare, complicated or otherwise error-prone tasks.

Virtual Heroes’ cutting-edge Advanced Learning Technology platform provides a comprehensive after-action-review technology, photo-realistic art and effects and was incorporated into the training program, which allows distributed users to participate simultaneously from different computers across the Internet. The instructor can control and drive the virtual patient’s vital signs dynamically during each scenario to further challenge students.

3DiTeams will run on any network-connected personal computer and consists of three phases: Independent Learning, Collaboration/Team Coordination, and Debrief/After Action Review. While all three phases utilize online connected learning, it’s the collaboration phase that adds a new serious game application to medical training.

"As many as 32 learners can enter a virtual world together," explained Heneghan. "Team members can be in the same room or spread throughout the world. Team members, instructors, and non-participant observers can comment and rate the interactions of these participants."

Video is part of the first and final phases of the new training tool, as students apply these learned concepts by watching and identifying important behaviors in video vignettes. At the conclusion of the process, video and voice recording of the Collaborative Phase using several channels is played back live or over the Internet. A facilitator debrief allows the students to review graded performance metrics, observe their behaviors, reflect on their actions, and discuss the positive and negative interactions.

The Duke program is the latest in a serious of initiatives from Virtual Heroes. The firm worked with Intel for a “virtual smash mouth” technology demonstration at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company also worked with Hilton Garden Inns for a virtual training program.