SOFA is a framework designed to facilitate medical simulations.
- An engine that offers many algorithms and physiological modules
- Advanced collision detection
- Compatible with a number of VR and simulation devices
- Free to use and regularly updated by a non-profit consortium
- Fills a very important and specialized niche
- Modular structure provides a lot of value to researchers
- Very niche design means it's only useful to a limited number of users
- Complicated mechanics take significant training to properly learn
Technology has allowed medical professionals to do amazing new things, but as new procedures become increasingly more complicated, the difficulty comes from finding safe methods for testing them. That's where SOFA comes in. Short for Simulation Open Framework Architecture, SOFA is designed to let researchers test out their theories in a controlled environment without having to take on subjects in the real world. This can produce results that would have been costly or ethically dubious in the past. SOFA places an emphasis on the research end of things and functions as a physics engine, prototyping tool, and means for developing new algorithms. The SOFA engine is built on C++, one of the most versatile and popular languages around. C++ is the parent language for a number of more specialized and user friendly coding languages. By building on a language as well known and robust as C++, the developers of SOFA were able to create a framework that's eminently customizable and particularly accommodating to a modular structure. The core of the SOFA experience is an advanced simulation framework. Users can simulate complex and interlinking algorithms together or use SOFA to test out physics based theories in a controlled and safely simulated environment. SOFA comes supported by a number of different modules that take the core functions of SOFA and adapt them to more specialized situations. SOFA's robust physics engine makes it an ideal choice both for education and the testing of high level research. These simulation models have been used to map out everything from the long term brain deformation caused by cerebrospinal fluid loss to the mechanics of how a heart functions. They've also developed educational simulations to help students learn the skills required to oversee cardiac catheterization. Installing the modules onto the framework is a fairly simple process, and many of them can be found directly on SOFA's main site. If you're trying to simulate a complicated medical process, you want to be absolutely sure that every factor is accounted for. Luckily, the algorithms that underlie SOFA's framework are dense and complicated. As far as algorithms and models, both integration schemes and linear system solvers are supported by SOFA. When it comes to creating real world simulations, users have access to rigid models, deformable models, and fluid models. These are crucial when it comes to simulating the complex and highly important factors that medical researchers need. Of great value is SOFA's support for multi-model representation. This allows you to mix and match rigid, deformable, and fluid models and connect them together through mappings. Great care was also taken to make sure that the collision models SOFA utilizes are accurate and complicated, as researchers will often be simulating the impact of procedures and conditions within their models. SOFA is free and open source software, and it's compatible with Windows, Apple, and Linux devices.