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Augmented reality system helps medical professionals


The new technology comes from Birmingham City University’s Digital Media Technology Laboratory (DMT Lab). Although the system is still in development it has, as tests have shown, enabled medics to interact with virtual models of organs and bones. The interactive experience also changes models of patient data. This is achieved by the medic through the use of freehand movements.

This type of augmented reality technology could lead to new developments by medical software companies to assist medics in their pre-operative assessments (testing out medial procedures), as well as providing new learning models for medical students. There are also hardware changes to come: augmented reality headsets, goggles, and contact lenses are the types of innovations that will let medical users project digital information over the real-life image they see. For example, drawing blood from the veins of a patient can be made easier with the help of vein scanners, designed to ease the process.

Importantly, with the Birmingham City technology, the augmented reality system also tells medics what might happen if procedure B is selected over procedure A; or if treatment 2 was used in place of treatment 1. This is made possible through the input of real patient medical records. The types of experiences are not only surgical; medics can also test out what might happen to patients long-term where harmful addictive substances are taken.

The basis of the system is advanced motion detecting sensors plus new developments with freehand interaction and the application of mixed reality software. The lead developer, Dr Ian Williams said to his university’s website: “We are developing this system as a platform to allow medical professionals to interact with genuine patient data and manipulate it by hand to educate and inform patients.”

The researcher adds: “The real advantages this brings are being able to visually demonstrate parts of the anatomy, using virtual models which can be customized for each patient and show how they have been impacted by lifestyle choices or how they may be changed following treatments or surgery.”

A possible further development with the system is with the creation of customized models that can be shared with the patient. This could, if felt appropriate, increase the engagement of patients’ with intended treatments and raise understanding. There may be some resistance from some in the medical field with the biggest obstacles relating to education, cultural change and acceptance. These notwithstanding, augmented reality could become a driving force in the future of medicine.



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