Advanced AR Applications in Medicine Under Development

Italian Researchers Develop Augmented Reality Device That Could Potentially Enable Laypeople To Perform Complex Medical Procedures

In the not so distant future, it’s entirely possible that human beings won’t need to carry any specialized knowledge around in their memory. Much like calculators have erased the need for on-the-fly mathematical calculations, augmented reality programs could replace domain-specific knowledge.

While it’s still mostly theoretical at this point, augmented reality enthusiasts around the world are slowly integrating the medium’s unique benefits into their training programs. One team of Italian-based researchers have created augmented reality software that can project 3D models of CT scans directly onto a human body. So far, they’ve only applied this concept to needle insertion — generally a first step in interventional oncology — and found it to be successful within a 5 millimeter range.

 This may not sound too particularly exciting at first, but fast forward ten years into the future and the implications may be huge. Inserting a needle is a fairly simple task, even for something as complex as cancer surgery. But imagine a future where the entire surgical process was guided by augmented reality. Not only would costs of expensive medical procedures likely drop, but human beings in parts of the world without highly-trained surgeons would still be able to take emergency measures against aggressive cancer.

Furthermore, removing the need for ultrasound and CT scans would protect technicians from overexposure to harmful radiation.

Marco Solbiati, the creator of the software, explains the benefits of his system:

“Efforts have recently been made not only to improve the efficacy of ablative devices, but also to increase the accuracy of image-guiding systems. Several navigation systems have been developed using augmented reality techniques … [that] allow the operator to see 3D virtual objects superimposed upon the real world and not on a different screen.”

Currently, Solbiati and his team are working on more ways to make their prototype even better. Such changes include improving the 3D architecture of a patient’s internal organs and reducing the amount of skin markers necessary for aligning the device.

Once the device becomes accurate enough, then it’s only a matter of time before advanced medical procedures are no longer something that trained medical professionals who have spent 10 years in medical school are qualified to perform. When will that day come? Likely sooner than we think.