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3D printing and gaming technology in paramedic pilot

Bond University and CQUniversity researchers have launched a cutting-edge pilot study using 3D printing and augmented reality gaming technology to assist paramedic students studying via distance education.

The study will involve 30 CQUniversity paramedic science students, who will utilise the mixed-media visualisation techniques to receive hands-on experience in removing blockages from the throat using a pair of 3D printed forceps and a laryngoscope, a scythe-shaped instrument.

The students will be sent the instruments and an augmented reality simulation 'smartphone app', developed by Bond University Assistant Professor Dr James Birt, which is viewed through a hat-mounted mobile phone screen supported in front of the eyes by a 3D printed mount.

The technology will allow students who are studying from rural and remote areas to practice laryngoscopy skills via the game-like simulation before arriving at residential school, with additional skills training provided to the remaining students during residential school.

Bond University will also commence a second mixed-media visualisation pilot study with its architecture students in May.

CQUniversity researcher Dr Michael Cowling, who is working with academic colleague Emma Moore and Bond University's Dr Birt on the paramedic pilot, said the project stemmed from an identified need for distance students to have more opportunity to practice skills outside residential school.

"The technology will allow students to practice foreign object removal on a virtual 3D patient during semester, helping them develop correct technique through visual and auditory feedback, with the expectation that they will perform better when they first arrive at residential school," he said.

Bond's Dr Birt said improvement in technology and its cost had made mixed-media resources more accessible than ever and the study aimed to utilise them to their full potential.

"What is missing from a lot of virtual reality simulations is the tactile feedback that comes with physically holding an object - the feel of its weight and the ability to explore, move in and around, and manipulate, ultimately improving spatial awareness," he said.

"Being distance students who don't have access to physical models or patients, they're at a disadvantage, so while this doesn't replace real life experience, it will improve their familiarisation of the procedure and accelerate their learning.

"We envisage extending the set of code used to create this app into multiple procedures in the future, which can be used to help students in other areas as well."

Dr Birt said Bond University's mixed-media visualisation pilot with architecture students also aimed to improve their sense of spatial awareness, allowing them to explore built structures on a 'human sized' scale.

"We have created a simulation of the Bond University architecture building that students can walk through in virtual reality," said Dr Birt.

"We are also creating a real time lighting simulation using specific variables of the Gold Coast including longitude, latitude, month and year, allowing students to fast forward through 24 hours and experience how the position of the sun impacts on their structure, simply by dragging and dropping their creation into the environment.

"It will allow them to receive feedback in real time and can also be used by lecturers as an assessment tool."

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