Center for Space Medicine

Video Games to Advance Virtual Simulation in Space Medicine


The mission to Mars is creating new opportunities for scientists, independent companies, and researchers to develop technologies that improve our understanding of the physiological effects of prolonged space travel on the human body. These innovations will potentially help medical conditions here on Earth. Sometimes, these advances can come from some surprising sources, like the video game software developers at Level Ex.

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health is partnering with Level Ex to develop a virtual program that will provide insight for both medical professionals and astronauts on how healthcare works differently in space. Level Ex creates training games for doctors to use to practice surgeries and medical procedures. The company is working to bridge the gaps in the health care industry through state-of-the-art video game technology and design.

"What we liked about Level Ex is that they have an amazing team both on the clinical and technical side," said Andrew Peterman, director of information systems at TRISH. 

Ultrasound Technology from Space Research may Progress Terrestrial Health

Level Ex's yearlong project focuses on building a virtual version of a spacecraft. Erik Funkhouser, Level Ex's lead investigator on the TRISH project, and team are creating this simulation to give medical professionals the chance to expand their knowledge of various conditions on Earth and for astronauts in space. Users can experience what it’s like to provide an ultrasound to a patient in space. Level Ex uses research from subject matter experts to model how medical conditions might present differently in space. This program will use MRI data as the foundation.

Researchers are gathering a series of reference images to help create the application. As astronauts travel longer distances, there is often time a lag in communication between the astronaut and NASA. The simulation aims to make it quicker and easier for astronauts to perform various diagnostic activities and understand outputs. Level Ex is working closely with TRISH and NASA to determine how this technology can be used in space and other NASA programs. 

This research has allowed Level Ex to learn the various challenges astronauts face both physiologically and technologically. By combining medicine and technology, Level Ex's virtual application could help expand the knowledge of the physical effects of prolonged space travel, and how those findings may help treat medical conditions here on Earth. 

“Working with TRISH has been really wonderful,” says Funkhouser. “Being provided support from team leadership and project management perspective has done wonders for the project, and I don’t think it would have been possible for us to make headway with NASA without TRISH’s support. It has been absolutely critical for this project, and it has been a great experience working with TRISH.”