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Open source human body simulator trains future doctors

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SOFA an open source human body simulator used for training medical students and for preparing medical interventions, is being used by an increasing number of research centres and companies, says Hugo Talbot, coordinator of the SOFA consortium. He demonstrated SOFA (Simulation Open Framework Architecture) last week at Fosdem, Europe’s largest free software conference, in Brussels (Belgium).

The SOFA human body simiulator's take on Linus' law on software development.

A human body simulator is just one of the many uses of SOFA, says Talbot. SOFA is a framework for multi-physics simulation. “Our software aims at interactive and real-time applications, with an emphasis on medical simulation”, he says.

The framework is being now used by medical research centres and academic hospitals across Europe, including in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom. SOFA is also used in the US, Canada, Japan, China and South Korea.

The simulation software can combine patient data to create simulations of, for example, eye operations, neurosurgery, liver surgery, or to create anatomical models. “This lets surgeons run simulations to plan the best strategy for the patient”, says software engineer Talbot. This is one of the main purposes of SOFA, the other being the training of medical students. However, the software can also be used to create and test new medical instruments such as catheters and stents, he says.

Body dynamics

SOFA offers modelling of both soft and rigid body dynamics, and it can be used to show fluid dynamics and heat transfer. Developers can build on the SOFA core, adding their own plugins, to test or deploy new algorithms and simulators.

Inria, France’s computer science institute, began developing SOFA in 2006, with initial funding from the Department of Defence in the USA. Last year, the developers founded a consortium, aiming to increase the number of researchers and attract start-ups and other companies interested in using the simulator. The growing SOFA community includes both universities and medical and robotics start-ups in France and Germany.

SOFA version 16.12 was released on 8 January 2017. The main part of the software is published using the GNU Lessor General Public Licence (LGPL).

More information:

SOFA framework
SOFA source code on GitHub
Hacker Public Radio interview with Hugo Talbot at Fosdem 2017