Virtual reality did not turn into the ultimate office replacement telepresence machine during the pandemic -- and it wasn't for lack of trying -- but some startups focused on employee training in VR have found added validation in the past year as professionals across industries were forced to access institutional knowledge in remote settings.
Osso VR, a San Francisco-based virtual reality startup focused on medical training, has piqued investor attention as they've bulked up on partnerships with medical devices powerhouses like Johnson & Johnson, Stryker and Smith & Nephew during the pandemic. The startup tells TechCrunch they've recently closed $27 million in Series B funding led by GSR Ventures with additional participation from SignalFire, Kaiser Permanente Ventures and Anorak Ventures, among others.
CEO Justin Barad tells TechCrunch that the pandemic "created an intense level of urgency" for the startup as customers found new demand for their platform.
Osso VR is looking to upend modern surgical instruction with a virtual reality-based solution that allows surgeons to interact with new medical devices in 3D space, "performing" a surgery over and over on a digital cadaver from the comfort of anywhere they have enough room to stretch out their arms. Osso's efforts are particularly useful to its medical device customers who can use the platform to boost familiarity with their solutions while helping surgeons gain proficiency in implanting them.
One of the startup's broader aims is to bring video games' multiplayer mechanics into the virtual operating room, allowing surgeons and medical assistants to collaborate in real-time so they not only know their responsibility but how they fit into the whole of each operation.
"It’s a lot like a symphony, everyone has a different role to play and you need to communicate with each other." Barad says.
It's a process that needs virtual reality's spatial breadth, Barad notes, though instruction is always supplemented by text and videos as well.
Barad calls the startup's aim "something unambiguously good," a quality which has helped the team poach talent as it has scaled to some 100 employees, which includes what he claims is the world's largest team of medical illustrators. That team has helped scale the platform's content to more than 100 modules spanning 10 specialties.
Virtual reality founders have struggled in recent years to coax investor attention as consumer and enterprise uptake has proven slower than the early wild ambitions for the technology. In its stead, investors have looked more towards bets on adjacent technologies like gaming and computer vision that don't require the specialized head-worn hardware. Osso VR's platform runs on Facebook's Oculus Quest 2 headset through the company's Oculus for Business program.