The goal is simple: Create a tool that can be used by robotic surgeons everywhere to better learn to communicate with their teams, increasing the success rate of these types of procedures. (As of last July, just 144 deaths had been linked to robotic surgeries over a 14-year period in the United States.)
To be fair, calling the FRS Virtual Team a game is a bit of a stretch. While it uses a video game graphics engine and basic input mechanics, it's more of a training tool, where surgeons learn proper procedures for communicating with their team. But the creators say that's exactly the point.
"Team communication is the biggest hurdle, especially in the medical field," said Alyssa Tanaka, a research scientist at Florida Hospital Nicholson Center who focuses on robotic surgery simulation and effective surgeon training. "It's very hard to get all these medical professionals available to do this kind of training. Video games have been an up-and-coming [way to do so in several fields], especially in defense, which is where a lot of simulation efforts start."
If that's a little hard to picture, it helps to have a mental image of the robotic surgical theater. On one side of the room is the patient, nurses, anesthesiologist and other supporting health-care officials. Sitting in the other is the surgeon — with head and hands stuck into what might resemble the fusion of an incubator and a big video game arcade machine — controlling the robot that hovers over the patient and does the physical work.