Life-saving Instruction for Emergencies (LIFE), a VR medical training platform developed by doctors, nurses and researchers at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP) in Kenya and Oxford University with support from HTC, has launched.

The platform allows healthcare workers to enter a realistic 3D virtual hospital on their smartphones or via a virtual reality headset.

Using the app, they can practice life-saving skills on virtual patients so that they are ready to act quickly and effectively in a real emergency.

In low-resource settings such as Kenya, access to simulation training can be difficult and expensive, said Oxford Univeristy, and using VR for training could enable more healthcare workers to receive the high-quality training they need to save lives.

The LIFE project was selected as a grant recipient of the “VR for Impact” initiative, sponsored by HTC VIVE, at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The momentum from the support has enabled the LIFE team to create a new VR version of the LIFE app that runs on the ENGAGE platform, a virtual reality education platform developed by Immersive VR Education, and uses the new HTC VIVE Focus Plus headset.

The VR version of LIFE follows the launch of the smartphone version in April.

The LIFE smartphone app is now being rolled out across Kenya through partnerships with medical and nursing schools and professional organisations such as the Kenya Paediatric Association.

The platform has been extensively tested in beta, with thousands of healthcare workers already using the app on their smartphones.

Dr Chris Paton, the lead researcher for LIFE from the University of Oxford, commented: “The rapid adoption of smartphones by thousands of healthcare workers across Africa means that they now have the chance to access training that would have been too expensive to access using traditional face-to-face courses.

“By using immersive VR simulation training in combination with a personal smartphone app, the LIFE project has the potential to support healthcare worker training at scale.”

Kris Severson, Head of VR for Impact at HTC VIVE, added: “Through VR for Impact, we’re supporting developers who harness the immersive capabilities of VR to create positive change in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“The Life project is the next evolution in medical training in Africa and a perfect example of how VR can enact real change with tangible results in our communities worldwide.”