For hundreds of years, dead bodies (A.K.A. cadavers) have taught medical students about human anatomy. In cadaver labs, students dissect, touch, rotate, and explore organs in hands-on experiences that make knowledge stick. Unfortunately, these experiences are out of reach for most of us. This is because cadaver labs are expensive to run, and cadavers are in limited supply, so non-medical students have to settle for secondary learning experiences like iPad apps and websites. These experiences are good, but not nearly as effective as the hands on learning experiences students get in the lab.
Fortunately, the Leap Motion Controller and virtual reality together have given the world the ability to recreate hands-on experiences in the digital world. Using these technologies, we created CadaVR, or what we like to call a ‘living’ virtual reality cadaver lab. The last part, ‘virtual reality cadaver lab’, describes the features that let students use their hands and other senses to learn about anatomy in many of the same ways medical students learn about anatomy in a physical lab. The word ‘living’ describes the things that are not available in physical labs, such as a simulation of how the heart beats (remember, cadavers are dead), or how organs look when they are 2x, 5x, or 10x their original size. And the best part? Students can experience all of this from the comfort of their couch, in the library, or in a coffee shop, because CadaVR is a web-based virtual reality platform that’s accessible anywhere, anytime.
However, accessibility is not our only priority. We also care deeply about trust, which is why we invite professors to create lessons. We are currently developing a lesson building platform that gives content curators the ability to easily create lessons from within virtual reality using their hands and voice. We like to say our lesson builder is analogous to creating a web page in WordPress or Squarespace, except we believe natural input (i.e. hands and voice) will make creating content much easier and faster. We are building this lesson builder because we believe a platform that gives anyone the ability to create effective learning environments will improve education around the world.
Our long term vision is to create a platform that gives anyone the ability to create lessons about anything. Math, science, history, architecture, construction, environmental planning – you name it. We plan to do this by creating a set of APIs that give web developers access to upload custom objects, whether it be a simple bouncing ball to help teach gravity, or a crane to help teach construction. These custom objects will then be used by lesson curators to create compelling physics lessons, immersive construction training simulations, learning environments that teach what is difficult to learn from two dimensional surfaces, learning environments that are not feasible to create in the physical world, and everything in between.
We want to improve education around the world, and we know we can’t do it alone. We are extremely excited about Leap Motion and virtual reality and their potential impact on how people teach and learn around the globe. If you would like to learn more about CadaVR, stay updated, and/or help us take the next step, please checkout our [website](http://cadavred.com/) and [github repo](https://github.com/drryanjames/CadaVR).
– Ryan James, PhD student in Biomedical and Health Informatics, University of Washington
Ahmad Aljadaan is a PhD student studying Biomedical and Health Informatics at the University of Washington, and a software and usability engineer with 4 years experience at Stanford University. His research focus on predictive analytics, building visualization tools that help physicians make predictions about patients at risk of readmission.
Mark Laughery is a Masters student in HumanCentered Design & Engineering with experience at six tech startups in Seattle. His background is in business analysis and product management.
Ryan James is a PhD student studying Biomedical and Health Informatics at the University of Washington, a software developer with 4 years of industry experience at Microsoft, and a entrepreneur with one year of experience running a small company in 2010. His research focuses primarily on understanding how medical professionals interact, learn and collaborate in virtual reality.