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Two devices have landed in the marketplace that promise to move augmented reality (AR) into the healthcare mainstream. Much less disorienting than previous-generation virtual reality headsets, Google Glass 2.0 and Microsoft's Hololens, while premium priced, can generate quick and substantial benefits.

Augmented reality is within reach and delivers significant benefits

Virtual reality capability has traditionally been either prohibitively expensive (immersive 3D suites) or personally disorienting for many users (full-field 3D goggles). The new crop of AR gear can deliver the same benefits with far fewer drawbacks.

Two "killer" use cases for AR have been implemented by several leading hospitals:

  • Visualizing computed tomography. CAT, PET, and MRI provide a much broader range of insights when viewed in 3D than in 2D sections. Diagnosis, such as tumor extent and involvement, and surgery planning can be transformed. It would be easy to say that every MRI, PET, and CAT suite should have a couple of Hololens sets for radiologists and consultants.

  • Teaching anatomy, diagnostics, and surgery. Being able to visualize organs and nervous and circulatory systems is a critical skill for medical and allied health practitioners. A class set of these devices could transform learning of gross anatomy – for much the same reason that CT is enhanced in 3D: our eyes and brains have evolved to gain far greater insight from a stereoscopic view, particularly when the object is moving.

While the second idea might take some time to implement, 3D in CT suites is an ideal target for an agile innovation project.



Richard Palmer, Principal Analyst, Public Sector

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