Mixed and Augmented Reality Can Facilitate Seamless Medical Communication

ar-healthcare-simulation

MedicalResearch.com recently interviewed Birmingham City University Associate Professor Dr. Ian Williams PhD about the work of the DMT lab on mixed and augmented reality for healthcare simulated training. Make no mistake, VR and AR are the future of healthcare simulated training:

Dr. Williams: Our work at the DMT Lab (dmtlab.bcu.ac.uk) focuses on developing a novel Mixed Reality (MR) medical presentation platform which allows practitioners to interact with patient data and virtual anatomical models in real time. The system enables the presentation of medical data, models and procedures to patients with the aim of educating them on pending procedures or the effects of lifestyle choices (for example the effects of smoking or excessive alcohol consumption).

The system employs an exocentric mixed reality environment which can be deployed in any room. It integrates a medical practitioner in real time with multimodal patient data and the corresponding result is a real time co-located visualisation of both the practitioner and the data, which they can interact with in real time.  We implement a natural interaction method into the system which improves a user’s level of direct interaction with the virtual models and provides a more realistic control of the data.

The system can also be used in a fun educational setting where patients, students, children or any naive user, can learn about medical anatomical information via a real-time interactive mixed reality “body scanner”. This fun system overlays the MR information onto their own body in real-time and shows them scaled and interactive virtual organs, anatomy and corresponding medical information. We are aiming for this system to be used not only in patient education but also in engaging and informing people on lifestyle choices.


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MedicalResearch.com: What types of medical or surgical problems do you envision can be enhanced with the use of free hand gestures to manipulate patient data?

Dr. Williams: Mixed reality has enormous potential within the medical field, with healthcare being profoundly affected by some recent developments. Mixed reality technology can also provide the platform for facilitating a seamless doctor-patient communications in real time. The system we are developing can provide a real time augmented view of the patient’s data which can be overlaid onto the patient, or interacted with via freehand interaction without the use of complex wearable devices.

Many current mixed reality systems rely on bespoke sensors and cumbersome wearable devices (for example haptic gloves) whereas we work in freehand interaction without the need for a medical practitioner or patient to wear any complex wearable device. This interaction method enables a more natural virtual interface and via the use of naturally inspired physical interaction models (for example common real grasping types) we bridge the gap between users and technology. This form of natural interaction can also enable an interaction which can be perceived as more realistic to the observer.


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