TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – When you think of virtual reality headsets, you probably think of gaming. But developers have created a new use for the device that is changing the way medical professionals and students are learning, including one innovative Tampa startup.

CW44’s Andrea Alvarez was given a demonstration of the virtual reality mask, “That’s incredible!”

“The way that physicians are trained hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. They’ve been coming to a location to simulate the stress of the environment,” said Erik Maltais, CEO and Co-Founder of Tampa startup company, Immertec. He and his team are taking medical technology, and it’s teachings, to a whole new reality.

“We’re a real-time, streaming platform and we use virtual reality to allow doctors to remote into an operating room so they can observe a surgery,” said Maltais. “They can ask questions. They can listen to commentary. They can look to the left or to the right and see everything as if they were in real-person. And all of this happens in real-time,”.

But the idea didn’t happen in your typical meeting room. “It started out in my garage, no joke,” said Jon Clagg, CTO and Co-Founder of Immertec. Clagg began toying with the idea of virtual reality back in 2012, when Oculus released their VR headset. “In 2014, Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion, so, to me, that was a signal that VR was not just for video games, it’s going to be the next medium in computing and I told my friend Erik, ‘this is going to be the next big thing’,” said Clagg. So he and Maltais got to work.

Four offices and 23 employees later, their office in Tampa is where software is being created to teach medical professionals and students across the country, regardless of physical location. “There’s plenty of textbooks and a lot of universities and schools for people to go through med school, there’s just simply very limited access to innovative procedures and devices,” said Maltais. He says there’s a benefit to both sides. “We started to investigate and found and we quickly realized that, in healthcare, there’s was a vacuum. There’s 5 billion people on the planet that don’t have access to safe and affordable surgery,” he said. “We saw that virtual reality was a platform that could potentially solve this and that it was worth committing to.”

Maltais tells CW44 News At 10, most medical devices typically take about 7 to 10 years to develop and another 7 to 10 hit the market, but that is not the case for these virtual reality devices. For more info, visit Immertec’s website.

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