Vertual grows into a stunning reality
- Published: Monday, 30 November -0001 00:00
- Written by University of Hull
It began in the high-tech research labs at the University of Hull and is now the world’s leading provider of virtual reality training systems in radiation therapy.
The revered Mayo Clinic in the United States is just one of more than 100 clients in 20 countries for the successful Vertual Ltd, which is still based in East Yorkshire, in purpose-built business facilities at the University.
Further success looks assured as the multi award-winning Vertual continues to extend its global reach and develop its product range.
Vertual was born in the Hull Immersive Visualisation Environment (HIVE), which is part of the University of Hull’s Department of Computer Science, after the Department of Health expressed an interest in the work of a joint research project involving the University and Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust.
The company was formed in 2007 and within months launched VERT (Virtual Environment for Radiotherapy Training). This ground-breaking training system was quickly adopted throughout England following recommendations from England’s National Radiotherapy Advisory Group and inclusion in the UK’s Department of Health’s Cancer Reform Strategy.
There are now VERT systems in 35 radiotherapy teaching hospitals and 12 universities in the UK. In 2008 the company embarked on a programme to develop international markets, and has now passed the significant milestone of 100 customers in countries including the United States, Australia, India, South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong and across Europe.
VERT is a virtual environment of a radiotherapy treatment room. Through captivating 3D views and life size visualisations, VERT offers an excellent platform for supplying radiation therapy training to students, nurses and multidisciplinary team members. From illustration of theoretical concepts through to acquisition of clinical skills in a safe environment VERT delivers benefits for the student, tutor, clinic staff and the patient.
The company has also launched PEARL (Patient Education and Awareness on a Realistic Linac), an innovative computer programme which helps patients understand the complexities of radiotherapy before they begin their treatments.
Being introduced to PEARL helps patients and their families see, hear and understand what it is like to undergo radiotherapy – all of which can be demonstrated on the doctor’s computer. This helps reduce the fear of the unknown for patients and improves their confidence ahead of their daunting experience that follows. PEARL is already in use in the United States, Australia and Japan.
Vertual is a flagship spin-out from HIVE, which helped the University’s Department of Computer Science to be ranked fifth in the UK for related impact in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise. The department makes outstanding contributions to industry in areas including gaming, engineering and health – with still more in the pipeline.
“Vertual has revolutionised the way radiation therapy is taught.”
Shaun Caldwell, Assistant Professor and Program Director, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA
“I was very fearful of my treatment: chemo = needles, surgery = no left breast, radiotherapy = I haven’t got a clue. The unknown is where the fear and ‘dragons’ lie.”
Cancer Patient, using PEARL