Interview With Dr Alexander Young, Founder And CEO Of Virti

We caught up with Dr Alexander Young, CEO and founder of Virti, to talk all things from being the first evidence-based training company to enter the NHS Innovation Accelerator programme, to adapting to remote training in a post-pandemic world…

Tell us about Virti

We are a Bristol-based company pioneering the use of cloud-based experiential reality (XR) and artificial intelligence in the fields of education, training and recruitment.

Over the last two years, we have developed a digital platform on which immersive video content can be viewed and interacted with by users located anywhere in the world. Bespoke 360-degree videos and imagery can be uploaded onto this platform by companies or universities, and their target audience can access it via any VR headset device or smartphone.

We are committed to driving forward a revolution in the delivery of scalable, timely and impactful training, and pioneering the application of XR tech across disciplines, sectors and industries.

We are the first and only evidence-based training company to be selected onto the prestigious NHS Innovation Accelerator programme and deployed in the UK’s NHS. We are also part of the Texas Medical Center’s Innovation Programme TMCx in Houston, have received the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh Triennial Innovation Prize and have topped the VR Healthcare Category at the VR Awards.

Most recently we have been working with the NHS to support the training of healthcare workers on the COVID frontline. We were named the winner of the NHS’ Covid-19 challenge, and we have been featured in the Department for International Trade’s COVID campaign and the Government’s GREAT Britain Inspirations Campaign.

How did you come up with the idea for Virti?

I trained and worked as an NHS Trauma and Orthopedic surgeon, and I also have a degree in education. When I was undergoing my medical and surgical training I realised that the development of essential practical skills amongst doctors was too often left to chance. Doctors’ and students’ confidence and capability was suffering from a lack of repeated practice in a zero-risk environment.

Drawing on my past experience of scaling innovative startups, I left the NHS and founded Virti. My goal was to create a way for learners to access high-quality face-to-face training conveniently and in a more data-driven way.

I joined with two experienced VR developers, Nils Hellberg and Lukas Roper, in Bristol. We got initial pre-seed investment from VR/AR investor BoostVC in San Mateo, CA, and launched the first iteration of the Virti platform in 2018.

Revenue was generated immediately, with Virti picking up multiple customers and awards and being selected onto the NHS’ Digital Health London accelerator just 2-months post-launch.

Why is Virti better than traditional training?

Traditional face-to-face or book-based training can be disengaging and far removed from the realities of using the skills. It can also be costly or logically difficult to deliver, especially on account of recent social distancing requirements and localised lockdowns.

In contrast, when participants train using an XR platform they have the opportunity to hone their skills in a (virtual) real-world scenario. They can repeat each module as often as they wish, participate from any location, and even receive personalised and highly comprehensive feedback on their performance from inbuilt artificial intelligence tools.

A study carried out as part of the Government-funded TechForce19 challenge showed that, in the health and social care sector, training with Virti’s immersive digital technology improved understanding of infection control measures by 76% and improved knowledge retention of crucial health and safety guidelines by 230%.

In short, XR training offers a cheaper, faster, more effective and simpler route to skill acquisition, whilst also boosting confidence and enabling scalability. The sky really is the limit when it comes to expanding and leveraging the power of XR tech in the education domain.

What does the future hold for Virti?

As organisations look to evolve and flourish in the new normal, we’re predicting an exciting period of continued growth here at Virti.

With the threat of a second wave still on the horizon, we’re seeing an acceleration of the shift towards remote employee recruitment, virtual training, and even virtual conferencing. Without a doubt, augmented, virtual and mixed reality technologies are going to provide opportunities to transform learning and training to meet the needs of our post-COVID society.

As universities restart this autumn, many students, especially medics, will be participating in virtual training for the first time – learning how to perform complex procedures in a zero-risk environment or augmenting their classroom teaching with additional at-home practice.

We have seen an influx of new customers across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the US this year, and we have been working with device manufacturers, pharma and corporates outside of healthcare too.

We are planning to launch more products in 2020, and expand our team to meet demand, including opening new offices on the East Coast of the US in addition to those in Houston, LA and Bristol.