Flesh is squishy. Bone is hard. Now with haptics, surgeons in training can feel the sensation of cutting into one and drilling into the other without having to be in operating rooms.
With virtual reality as a backbone, companies are leveraging haptics to enable people to feel virtual objects, creating immersive experiences across a range of scenarios. Simulated surgery, for example, provides varying levels of feedback to surgeons working on virtual bone or flesh.
“If you want to learn the true skill, then you need to know what it feels like to make the incision, to make a suture, to retract some tissue,” said Richard Vincent, co-founder and chief executive of the startup FundamentalVR, “that’s where our system comes in.”
Virtual reality has long held promise for medical training, and now haptics can play an important role in enhancing it, Mr. Vincent added.
London-based FundamentalVR designs immersive surgery simulation software to run on VR headsets and hand-held haptics tools allowing users to experience the look and feel of surgery. The company is part of a healthcare simulation market projected to reach $3.4 billion by 2026, according to market research platform MarketsandMarkets.
FundamentalVR on Thursday said it raised an additional $20 million in a Series B round, bringing its total funding to $30 million. The company didn’t disclose its revenue or value.
Haptics has been around for decades in use in smartphones, such as with their vibrations, and in videogames. It is what makes an Xbox controller buzz when a player is fatally shot by a hired gun or attacked by a zombie.
Essentially, haptics is “tactical feedback,” said Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen.
Recent improvements in the technology are making it possible to further refine specific sensations, giving haptics broader commercial applications, said Mr. Nguyen. When it comes to those applications, surgical training is a big one, he added.
Other companies have also leveraged advances in haptics and virtual reality for the medical field, although most offer experiences through large, stationary hardware. FundamentalVR aims to stand apart by focusing on the software that enables experiences.
The startup said it is agnostic hardware, meaning its software can be used with a number of portable virtual reality headsets and haptics hardware, such as a penlike tool or glove, already on the market.
FundamentalVR said its surgical simulation platform is currently in use in 30 countries and customers include medical device makers and pharmaceutical manufacturers, including Novartis AG
that are typically responsible for training practicing surgeons on new surgery devices they bring to market.
Drew Burdon, a partner at European venture-capital firm EQT Life Sciences, led FundamentalVR’s Series B funding round and will join its board of directors. He said that before the investment, he spent months researching FundamentalVR and its market, and even tried out a simulation surgery on the company’s platform.
“It was kind of mind blowing,” Mr. Burdon said, adding that, “This is the ability to touch and feel skin and suture and make injections and actually feel how it would feel in reality.”
Mr. Vincent said he aims to use the additional funding to broaden the library of procedures available on the FundamentalVR platform and scale up reporting capabilities to better inform users of how they perform on it. The library currently covers four different medical disciplines, including orthopedics and ophthalmology.
Additionally, hiring is a priority, Mr. Vincent said. He hopes FundamentalVR will be able to double the size of its 110-employee workforce over the next 12 months.
Write to Isabelle Bousquette at Isabelle.Bousquette@wsj.com
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