Augmenting Healthcare To Save Lives With AR, Mixed and Virtual Reality

Jo Munro
on 2 September 2020

Whilst working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors have been wearing mixed-reality (Microsoft Hololens) headsets in hospitals to reduce need for PPE and to aid them in their care for their patients. The Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has lead a project to keep medical staff safe using mixed reality devices on hospital coronavirus wards.

HoloLens with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist uses Microsoft Teams to send a secure live video feed to a computer screen in a nearby room, allowing healthcare teams to see everything the doctor treating COVID-19 patients can see, while remaining at a safe distance.

COVID-19 has put the spotlight on this hands-free, interactive technology, and it is unlikely that this focus will move for some time. 

This isn’t the only use for Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) or the other member of the “Spatial reality” family, Virtual Reality (VR) in medicine.

In fact, BBC recently reported on a husband and wife team, Jon and Jennifer Silva, working at Washington University in St Louis in the United States, who have developed a hologram that visualises a patient’s heart while they are in the operating theatre.

It is designed to provide real-time information in 3D and a direct view of internal tools, such as catheters. Holograms can improve accuracy when used during minimally invasive surgery to treat arrhythmias. The doctor demonstrating the technology marvelled how she could enlarge the hologram heart so she could ‘stand inside it and look around’.

Medicine is not the only use for VR, MR and AR products. The recent report by IDTechEx forecasts the sector to be over $30Bn by 2030, will impact many different industries, and future innovations will continue its growth in the wearables market.

What is Augmented Reality/Mixed Reality?

Different companies have different naming classifications for their products.  There are typically two terms for spatial reality devices where the user can see the real world.

  • Augmented reality (AR). These devices overlay digital content on top of the real world
  • Mixed reality (MR). These devices add superimposed digital content that superficially interacts with the environment in real-time.

Source: IDTechEx, “Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality 2020-2030

This report falls within the IDTechEx wearables portfolio, which covers haptics, wearables, hearables, and other similar devices.

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