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Applying 3D Printing, VR, and Gamification in Healthcare, With Mohamed Dhaouafi

Updated: Apr 1


Episode 15: Applying 3D printing, VR, and gamification in healthcare, with Mohamed Dhaouafi




Hi everyone,


Don’t know about you all, but my email inbox has been full of “2021 predictions” the last couple of weeks. I’m aware that you didn’t receive one from me (yet) - so I thought I’d pick up on a couple of trending aspects and share with you my thoughts.


Let’s start with the case against the societal harm brought about by social media in 2020, mainly around disinformation, privacy and addiction. It seems that social media platforms have been demonized more than ever this past year (on that note, definitely watch Social Dilemma on Netflix), but I don’t personally buy into that entirely. My evolving view in the past year has been that I don’t mind giving my data away in exchange for targeted ads (it helps me stay in the know of things I find relevant) and staying in touch with my friends.


However, that being said, for the first time since I activated my Instagram account yeeeears ago (my personal account, not the Spark! with Shereen business account), I felt overwhelmed with content over the Christmas period and decided to deactivate my account to give myself a break from the habit of feeling the need to reach out to my phone every time I had a 10 second break.


I must say, in the beginning, I found myself grabbing my phone anyway, forgetting the fact that I didn’t have access to Instagram anymore, but then I surprisingly became accustomed to not doing so and pretty fast. Alas, FOMO finally kicked in a few days later and I activated it again. And something funny happened…


Since I had disconnected over Christmas weekend, the first lineup of pictures that flooded my stream was of my friends spending the holiday period with their loved ones. As I scrolled through the posts, I found myself smiling, happy to see my friends, who are literally around the world, happy. And so, I decided I needed to simply do a better job at refining my usage of these platforms, instead of giving up on them altogether.


Back to predictions for 2021, I’d be curious to see if antitrust movements against big tech companies will actually result in spinoffs/ merger blocks. A world where Facebook has to sell Instagram and/or WhatsApp this year? Today I read that Facebook is making WhatsApp users consent to sharing data, otherwise they'd lose access as of Feb 2021 (wow!). Well, for everyone outside of the EU, because they have GDPR protecting them.



In our latest episode, we sit with Mohamed Dhaouafi to discuss how he is bringing 3D printing, VR, and gamification technologies to healthcare. More specifically, through his company CURE BIONICS, based in Tunis, he builds bionic prosthetics and therapeutic solutions using these technologies. Mohamed is a 2020 FORBES Middle East 30 Under 30, a 2020 MIT Technology Review 35 under 35 Innovator, and a 2019 Obama Foundation Africa Leader - super impressive, right? To top it all off, he started his business from scratch.


Together we discuss:

  • How to launch a hardware-based product from MVP to market

  • 3D printing, VR, and gamification applications in the prosthetics market

  • Distribution models to scale hardware-based businesses

  • Various uses of 3d printing in healthcare and beyond!



When building hardware, get to an MVP first and seek feedback from your network


When building a hardware product, it is important to first build a minimum viable product (MVP). That MVP does not need to be perfect, but it is required to assess faults that need to be addressed. Remember, it’s important to have an MVP that is functioning instead of a fancy one that doesn’t work.


Through reverse engineering, products can be understood and simplified into basic components before being assembled into the final creation.


If you are creating a product that is not commonly found in the market you are operating in, take advantage of the lower likelihood of regulation. This is a good thing because it gives you more freedom on how to design your product(s). However, if you are looking to build a product in a regulated space, it’s best to learn the relevant laws so that you can incorporate them into your product development journey.


Be accepting of getting help from others around you who complement your skillsets. For example, if you come from an engineering background, make some friends with business guys!


This can include friends, teachers as well as the government; you never know who in your network can provide knowledgeable insights on how to make products that are in demand and profitable in the region.


An MVP is something functional that doesn't need to be beautiful


Use 3D printing for prototyping, and VR/ gamification to enhance your product's user experience


3D printing has come a long way from where it originally started to make and test small prototypes (in the engineering world). Now, it is used (by more than just engineers) for full-scaled projects like building houses and developing prosthetic hands.

In the prosthetics market, there are three levels of technology used when developing prosthetics – coding, electronics, and mechanicals. Computers are used for the designs, 3D printing for the product, and muscle sensors to control movement.


Virtual reality (VR) is used in therapy for people who are adapting to their prosthetics. Using VR, they are able to psychologically and physically improve by seeing, controlling, and moving their hands with sensors (virtually-enabled). To make it more interactive, simple actions are replaced with interactive games played with these virtual hands. For example, a Superman-inspired game allows users to fly around like a superhero using their hands. This, in turn, is an innovative way to make users connect with the prosthetics they use and feel they are real through the same adrenaline and sense of adventure that a superhero would feel when using their hands to save the world.


The best part is that the usage of VR in physical therapy is all online, hence, saving patients the time, money, and energy needed to physically go and meet a therapist. Even behind a screen, doctors are able to identify the unique, individual needs and struggles of any person taking VR therapy.


Nothing can replace reality, but virtual reality can show us what we can’t have in real life. VR is often used in rehabilitation with gaming to allow users to be more accepting of prosthetics in their lives. Known as serious games, these games are created for more than just having fun. In this case, VR games allow people to be more psychologically and physically accepting of prosthetics.



Distribution of products is easier when there are local partners and automated software to collect information


By having partners in different locations, you can optimize your manufacturing supply chain so that you are not producing hardware in one location and then incurring delivery costs. Provided that your partners follow your guidelines for production, you will be able to benefit from their economies of scale, whilst also implementing intellectual property (IP) protection measures. For example, software that is downloadable can permit protection of IP and privacy as long as it can directly send information through the production process. This makes the software protected and easily usable for people’s own preferences, such as, customized covers for prosthetics. Hence, you will be able to scale your business more widely and create more impact.



3D printing is used in the healthcare sector and beyond!


Using a 3D printer, body organs can be bio-printed. This requires 4 dimensions to be printed: x, y, z and cells. Living cells are 3D printed and multiply themselves. Since 3D printing is still on the rise, cells are one of the newer materials used and take time to multiply. There’s still a need for more lab testing to understand human body adaptability and acceptance of foreign substances.


Besides the medical field, even food can be 3D printed! KFC has been experimenting and producing 3D printed food; by identifying what fibers are required to make food, they’ve been able to make 3D printed chicken that is edible.



Spark! Studios blog


Until next time,

Shereen

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