These astronauts are undergoing medical training by playing video games

The Polaris Dawn mission will launch by March 2023.

Image: Polaris Program/John Krause

of Polaris Dawn’s space flightis a SpaceX mission scheduled to launch in March, making it a pioneering mission. Its crew will attempt the first-ever commercial spacewalk. They are also the first crew to test Starlink’s laser-based communications in space. If all goes according to plan, the mission will set a new record for the highest Earth orbit ever flown.

Perhaps just as importantly, Polaris Dawn aims to break new ground in the study of human health, with the crew deploying dozens of aircraft to study the effects of spaceflight and cosmic radiation on the human body. of science and research experiments.

But only one member of the four-person crew on a civilian space mission has expertise in human biology and medicine. SpaceX’s chief space operations engineer, Anna Menon, worked at NASA for seven years as a biomedical her flight controller. International Space Station.

Also: Forget the moon, NASA’s next big mission is right near your home

This lack of expertise created a unique set of challenges for SpaceX. How can flight crews with limited time available for training be prepared to use medical tools and perform diagnostic tests themselves? In a place where the environment is clearly different from Earth?

The answer, after all, is video games.

SpaceX partnered with seven-year-old Level Ex to train the Polaris Dawn crew to perform medical ultrasound procedures. Level Ex uses sophisticated real-time simulation technology to gamify medical training. All applications can be downloaded to your mobile phone.

Level Ex’s mission, founder and CEO Sam Glassenberg told ZDNET, is to “advance medical practice through play.”

The company is “accelerating the adoption curve for new treatments and new devices using video game technology and video game design,” he explained. “Space Health is just a local extension of that.”

According to Glassenberg, Level Ex already has 3 million players using the game, including more than 1 million medical professionals. Its portfolio of games is designed for professionals such as cardiologists and pulmonologists. For example, in Gastro Ex, physicians can practice using various endoscopic tools to perform gastrointestinal surgery within a virtual anatomical structure that appears real but is actually simulated. I can do it. Airway Ex, on the other hand, allows physicians to practice intubation on virtual patients in a realistic OR setting.

Screenshot from the Level Ex game showing a virtual rendering of a patient with an open mouth

Screenshot from the Level Ex game. Shows a virtual rendering of a patient with an open mouth.

Image: Level Ex

Level Ex offers the only game you can play to earn Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits to renew your medical license, Glassenberg said. The company also works with nearly 30 of the best life sciences device makers to accelerate technology learning and adoption.

Medical training simulation resonates with medical professionals because it is a big step up from the alternative of learning to perform new procedures or use new tools on live patients . The same logic obviously applies to astronaut training, but astronauts don’t have time for full medical training. Astronauts train for years to participate in week-long space missions. With so much to learn, “we don’t have time to give everyone a medical degree in space health,” Glassenberg said.

On top of that, practicing on Earth cannot replicate the conditions in space. “The heart physically changes shape. It becomes more spherical in microgravity and changes the direction of blood flow,” said Glassenberg. “So how do you know what you’re seeing is normal?”

In 2019, Level Ex received a grant from NASA to create the most realistic real-time ultrasound simulation ever, giving astronauts what is known as “just-in-time” training. NASA used the game company with an eventual mission to Mars in mind.

“Imagine a mission to Mars that took nine months,” says Glassenberg. “Suddenly, one of his astronauts grabbed his chest in microgravity and rolled him unconscious. What if it was the flight doctor?”

On a mission far from Earth, the astronauts on board cannot call Mission Control for help. It also puts you in a resource-constrained environment where ultrasound is the only available medical imaging technology.

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Building on work begun at NASA, Level Ex has partnered with SpaceX and others to develop just-in-time training and in-flight procedural guidance to help crews use ultrasound. During Polaris Dawn missions, the crew will track blood flow patterns to measure the effectiveness of just-in-time training. The ultimate goal is to enable future space travelers to monitor their health during long-term missions.

“They’re trying to prepare us for life in space,” said Glassenberg.

Level Ex games are designed for mobile devices, but the graphics are on par with console games. “You don’t find fluid dynamics or what we do within mobile games,” he said.

The company takes the stage at SIGGRAPH, a prestigious computer graphics conference that regularly honors gaming giants like Nvidia and Unity.

“One of the advantages we have is that they are creating characters within environments,” Glassenberg said of typical game creators, adding, “We create environments within characters. I am.”

Before starting Level Ex, Glassenberg helped create realistic video games at Microsoft and LucasArts. He developed his first Level Ex game for his father, a doctor looking for a better simulation of fiber optic intubation.

Getting doctors to use the gamified training app was “surprisingly easy,” he says.

“Early on, we were apprehensive about embracing the game branding, but we found it resonated. Doctors are human too. They play video games.”

https://www.zdnet.com/article/these-astronauts-are-getting-their-medical-training-from-playing-video-games/#ftag=RSSbaffb68 These astronauts are undergoing medical training by playing video games

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