Reducing the time and effort developers spend to check how changes in the code affect VR simulations‍

Writing acceptance testing framework for VirtaMed

Partnering with VirtaMed, we built an automated acceptance testing framework developed in Unity to reduce the time and effort for developers to check how changes in the code affect every simulation. VirtaMed's medical virtual reality simulators are an effective tool to speed up the mastery of manual skills and movement patterns for the operating room.

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Since 2007, VirtaMed has been on a mission to find a way for patients to experience world-class surgical excellence. With training simulators that provide a realistic experience, VirtaMed helps surgeons prepare for surgical procedures and hone their skills. Simulators are available 24/7, significantly accelerating training.

Prioritizing Active Education

Well-designed training programs have an appropriate ratio of passive to active education. Active education — when the student is exposed to a procedure that closely resembles the actual treatment — makes up the bulk of the process of mastering the craft.

Realistic simulators for surgical procedures offer students a better chance to hone their skills and learn the necessary movement patterns and order of procedure steps.

VirtaMed's simulators speed up the training for procedures such as arthroscopy, laparoscopy, or hysterectomy.

Managing Multiple Surgery Simulation Scenarios

VirtaMed provides medical training with life-like surgery simulators and realistic surgical instruments adapted to training. All these instruments have a specific role in every scenario.

VirtaMed needed an automated process that would help developers check if and which changes made in the surgical simulation affect its completion. Reliable acceptance tests would improve how VirtaMed managed the many scenarios available on their simulators.

Scope of Work

We developed the testing framework in Unity. And even though strictly medical, the project’s reliance on Unity makes it akin to game development: it has considerable hardware demands in production. In that gamified setup, our team is code-operating on people. A humbling venture into the complex world of surgery. And a great learning opportunity.

Integration with Existing Development Workflow

We integrated the testing framework into VirtaMed's development cycle, ensuring compatibility with VirtaMed's current systems. This involved adapting the framework to work in tandem with the version control and continuous integration platforms for efficient deployment.

Custom Tool Development for Simulation Testing

The acceptance framework defines the functionality of surgical instruments in the simulation. This allows for accurate and realistic testing of each simulated surgical scenario, enhancing the reliability of the testing process.

Performance Optimization and Hardware Compatibility

We focused on optimizing the testing framework to ensure consistent performance. This was crucial for medical simulations where accuracy and response time are paramount for training effectiveness.


Acceptance Testing for Better Requirements Validation

Before automated acceptance testing was implemented, a tester had to manually use each device to check if it worked according to requirements when a simulation was launched. This took a lot of time and wasn’t cost-effective.

Simulating the surgical toolset

The automated acceptance testing framework simulates all the tools — the instruments don’t have to be physically connected to see how they move in the simulator and if they work properly. For example, can an electrode coagulate a specific area or scissors be placed in the correct spot and cut the right thing.

Each test also simulates the actual procedure step by step, making sure the entire scenario is working according to specification. With one click, a developer can check if the procedure works after a change. For example, if a demarcation line on an organ necessary to complete a step was deleted, the test would flag it.

VirtaMed Helps Students Become Proficient

VirtaMed creates a safe environment for surgeons to master the craft. Using virtual reality simulators, surgeons can improve their skills and reduce errors in the operating room by working in a more realistic and informative training environment.

Helping developers release scenarios faster

Automated acceptance tests help VirtaMed check every parameter of a surgical procedure scenario without manually performing the time-consuming procedure. Acceptance tests inform when the app crashes and which changes are the culprit. Now, VirtaMed can create more surgical simulations and introduce them into the training curriculum much faster and with less effort.

Nomtek’s senior Unity developers not only developed a testing framework for the automation of future tests but in doing so gathered the trust and confidence of their VirtaMed counterparts to work on ever more advanced tasks.

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