MMVR02/10 -- Digital Upgrades: Applying Moore's Law to Health

Rachel Prentice


March 27, 2002

In This Article


Medical simulation will pioneer new breakthroughs in computational complexity because the human body is the hardest part of nature to model, said Jaron Lanier, a pioneer of virtual reality, to the audiences at the 10th annual Medicine Meets Virtual Reality (MMVR) conference, January 23-26, 2002, Newport Beach, California. "Galaxies are hard -- they're complicated; but they aren't nearly as hard as a liver," said Lanier, chief scientist at Advanced Network & Services Inc., a consulting company promoting the advancement of computer network applications and technology located in Armonk, New York. In addition to tough modeling problems, the constraints of creating models that reflect real operations on real patients means that medical simulation is less forgiving than other computer arenas. Most computer experts simply redefine the problem when they encounter a stumbling block; that's not a luxury medical experts have, he said.

About 550 doctors, educators, and computer experts gathered at the conference to explore current and future technologies in medicine, considering the theme of "Digital Upgrades: Applying Moore's Law to Health." Moore's law describes the notion that computer capabilities double every 18 months. The conference theme suggested, with some humor, that Moore's law might at some point apply to medical care and that digital upgrades might someday extend to bodies.

The conference was sponsored by the University of California's Irvine College of Medicine and Aligned Management Associates Inc., the conference organizer. Many talks focused on technical improvements in surgical simulations, visualization tools, and networking applications. Another topic was virtual-reality methods for treating psychological disorders, particularly phobias such as fear of public speaking, and even the treatment of eating disorders. In the realm of less high-tech discussions, several sessions described assessment methods of digital tools for medical education and training.

Assessment arose during the awards ceremony for the eighth annual Satava Award, the conference's top honor, named after Dr. Richard Satava of Yale University School of Medicine, a conference founder and long-standing supporter. Stanford University Medical Media and Information Technology (SUMMIT) laboratory received the Satava award for its work developing virtual technologies for medical education and surgery. SUMMIT Director Parvati Dev described the group's 8-step assessment system and its attempts to move applications quickly from research to curriculum at Stanford's medical school as reasons for its success.


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