Richard Vincent, FundamentalVR - Spotlight Interview | LSI USA '23

FundamentalVR is accelerating surgical capability for life science businesses via precision VR simulation.
Richard Vincent
Richard Vincent
Founder & CEO, FundamentalVR



Nick Talamantes  0:14  

Richard, thank you so much for joining me in the LSI Studio today. 


Richard Vincent  0:17  

Great to be here, Nick. 


Nick Talamantes  0:18  

Why don't you tell me a little bit about the work you're doing in FundamentalVR? 


Richard Vincent  0:21  

Yeah, love to, great to have the chance to talk to you about it. So Fundamental we are, we have been really working with a problem that's been around for a very long time. And that's that surgeries difficult to learn, finding the right opportunity to get the right skills just takes a long time for surgeons, and there's a lot to learn. So what we do is we use virtual reality, and something called haptics, which is the sense of touch resistance and weight. And we combine those together into a virtual experience that allows us to put surgeons nurses, their teams together into a virtual operating room, to collaborate, to learn to understand and to use that technology to really accelerate their learning curve around a device technique or procedure, so that they can get faster down that competency and confidence learning curve.


Nick Talamantes  1:19  

This is an educational tool, correct? 


Richard Vincent  1:20  

Correct. Yeah. 


Nick Talamantes  1:21  

And as an educational tool, it's great for a number of reasons. I imagine it's probably far more cost effective to train in VR versus training in an operating room or any even a simulated operating room. What was sort of the inception point for this? And could you walk me through the history of how you guys have started as a VR company and gotten to where you are today?


Richard Vincent  1:46  

Sure, yeah, yeah, there's a, as you said, there's a lot of pretty tangible benefits that come from using this type of technology. The the key thing really here is that the cost is not just financial, you know, it's a human cost. Most learning happens in the operating room. Most learning curves happen on real patients. And that has a physical human cost to those patients. So what we can do is bring in a way of alleviating some of that by giving those healthcare professionals the opportunity to rehearse, practice, again and again, before they land into that location. So to your question, you know, the, the, the progression of the business, about seven or eight years ago, now, I was looking at the technology landscape and could see the virtual reality. And immersive tech offered a new opportunity. And I could see how that could be applied to the medical and the surgical use case. The challenge I had was, virtual reality is fantastic for situational awareness for presence for putting you into that 3d environment. But you can't touch anything. And surgery is all about touching a patient. So we had a problem that we had to solve, which is how do you how do you bring that immersion and all the quality of that together with something more meaningful than just a 3d presence. And so spent a long time working on haptics, working on the sense of touch and how you build that together. So much so that today, we've got a fully patented system, we call the haptic intelligence engine, which means if you're holding a virtual device, it can be grounded and give you false feedback and push back as you would have with a again, as you interact with a real human. If you're laying your hand onto that virtual patient, using a haptic glove, you can have that interaction. And with those, those dynamics, we're able to really recreate that as close as you can get to real life experiences within that space. And that just again, allows them, the surgeon, his team, or her team, the nursing staff to really understand and rehearse that dynamic of going through those procedures.


Nick Talamantes  4:03  

So is that rehearsal, very scripted and controlled? How does it work? Once you're once you're all booted up?


Richard Vincent  4:10  

So it, I think the short answer is it depends on on the learning objectives we have and the audience and the the users that we're working with. But, but ultimately, we look at surgical objectives. So what are the different steps and objectives that you have through a procedure, and we line those up for someone to run through? Now, nothing goes according to plan in life, right. So so having the opportunity to divert off and for having adverse effects and things happening, and you're having to deal with those. That's all about the power of this, this proposition? You know, using the analogy of flight simulators for a moment, you know, you if you're a flight sim in a flight simulator, you want to practice a bird strike in the operating room, you need the equivalent of that bird strike so that you can face that challenge. Run through it. and understand it with the opportunity to press pause, or reset when it goes wrong. Because in the real environment, you only get one shot at it.


Nick Talamantes  5:08  

That sounds like there's an immense amount of collaboration and research required, then to sort of understand all these different nuances, the potential adverse events that could happen in any given procedure, and then implement that into a software program that is run and can be experienced by others. What is the collaboration process look like to understand all the different needs that are required to educate new and continuing to practice surgeons on techniques in the OR?


Richard Vincent  5:38  

Yeah, it's it's, it's extensive. So we have a large body of experts, practicing surgeons, educators who work with us in our in our medical panel, I think 30 Plus now in that space across multiple different different disciplines. So you need people who are expert in that particular area, so robotics, urology, orthopedics, and so on. So we have experts that represent each of those, we work with industry, so our customers, our end users are those healthcare providers in the hospital environments, etc. But it's industry that really pays for education in most of these situations. So we work with industry, so the medical device companies and the pharmaceutical companies, they have their experts as well, they're KOLs. So our KOLs and their KOLs have worked together, we have an education team that's become really, really expert at deconstructing the process and the procedural interaction within a procedure. So that we can codify that create the channels that are important in terms of the different outcomes. And also, again, really focusing on what's the key learning objective here, because most of our simulations are targeted at tenured surgeons. So this is an early stage learning this is I know how to do a particular procedure, but there's a new technique, and it's that technique I need to learn. So we might not need to do the whole procedure, we can fast track through the things that you know, because you know, those, and then focus in on that new intricate technique that you need to acquire the capability in.


Nick Talamantes  7:17  

What are the major medical markets or procedure categories that your, your software your VCR is capable of simulating procedures for?


Richard Vincent  7:27  

It's really wide, I mean, we built the platform deliberately to be as flexible and open as possible. So we haven't really found a sector that that it doesn't work really well with. So far, we've gone really deep into ophthalmology. And that's been driven by some of the innovation that's happened both in traditional ophthalmology and in gene therapy, that's taken us into the gene therapy category. So gene therapy, where there's a surgical intervention where you have to need to place that that gene therapy into the environment. And there we're working both pre FDA and in full commercialization with some of our customers. So some of its to do with clinical studies. Some of its to do with that training and education in the rollout. And then other areas, as I mentioned, so urology, cardiovascular, endovascular, interventional, orthopedics, they're all coming into that platform. And what we're doing with it to really accelerate those use cases and those different sectors coming in, it's we're starting to now open up that platform to other third party developers, so that they can take some of the tools that we've invested in over the last eight years, and rapidly develop their own simulations as well and then place them on to the Fundamental Surgery platform so that they can then be used by their customers and other users.


Nick Talamantes  8:50  

You have quite a comprehensive offering, then I imagine your company has been around seven, eight years. And that's really I would say, when VR technology has truly kind of taken off for use in medical. I know there are other companies there, is haptics your guys's secret weapon?


Richard Vincent  9:09  

It's certainly right at the core of our differentiator. Yeah, I think I think I'm right in saying we're the only company globally that's managed to deliver haptics at scale, you find haptics in some traditional simulations, those tend to be quite high capital expenditure simulators that are big and bulky and sit in sim centers. They're great. They're just big and bulky and sit in sim centers. So what we've been able to do is take that capability and put it into a very low cost, easy to transport system that can follow the surgeon where they are as opposed to them having to go to it and that's a big key part. So to your question, we, we compete with traditional simulators, those capital equipment ones and there's some great examples out there. Our differentiator there is really a much lower cost much more scalability, much more flexibility against the newer VR companies out there like us. Our differentiator, then is absolutely the haptics. We're the only ones with that in place, but also being hardware agnostic. So we don't make any hardware, we are pure software, we send our systems into off the shelf headsets, off the shelf gloves off the shelf, haptic devices, which means we need to be able to plug and play with multiple hardware systems. And because we do that, we're able to say to our customers, the the institutions and the corporates we work with will future proof your investment, because no matter, the only thing I know about technology is it always gets better. It gets cheaper, it gets faster, what you don't want to do is find that you've spent and invested into a simulation, and then six months down the line, the headset doesn't work with that simulation. So we're able to future proof that through the way we put our technology together.


Nick Talamantes  11:06  

So anyone with the right equipment, and it sounds like it can, as you mentioned, it's device agnostic. So an Oculus headset, the hand headsets, the gloves you've mentioned, they can buy that pick up this equipment, and then start training their surgeons and new techniques, how to prevent adverse events during surgery, just like that once they get in touch with you guys.


Richard Vincent  11:29  

Yeah, yeah, I mean, there's a process of putting their particular procedure or device onto the onto the platform. As I said, we're starting to open that up. So people can do it themselves as well. But once that stood up, then it will work with most of the mainstream headsets and haptic devices. And that just gives them lots of flexibility and reduces the cost. Because if you need this deployed in China, then you want to buy the hardware in China. If it's in the US, you want the hardware there. So yes, Meta, HTC, Pico, Haply, haptics, all of those OEMs were able to support.


Nick Talamantes  12:05  

So you guys are growing company, I imagine what brings you to LSI.


Richard Vincent  12:11  

So love being LSI. It's a it's a great event, this is my third year here. And it's really open informal environment to meet both the strategics and the venture organizations. And that's, I don't think I found another location where it happens quite as freely and openly as it does here. So it's great. And then on top of that, you've got an enormous, large group of people like me, the innovators to just to catch up on what's happening, what's what's happening in new sectors, how that's coming through. It's a great opportunity to do all of those things.


Nick Talamantes  12:48  

That's brilliant. Well, Richard, thank you so much for stopping by and telling me about the work you're doing at fundamental VR. It's been a pleasure.


Richard Vincent  12:55  

Really good to see. Thank you.


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