How Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are Revolutionizing Healthcare
With the COVID-19 epidemic becoming the world’s most pressing issue, emerging technologies, especially technologies related to augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR), have become more and more instrumental in helping combat the challenges related to the disease.
COVID-19 is an extremely infectious virus that has been confirmed to be spread through both symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers. This makes it especially dangerous for scientists and healthcare professionals to study the virus and care for patients diagnosed with Coronavirus. AR/VR tech has become instrumental in helping to address this problem. For example, workers at Sheba Medical Center, located in Ramat Gan, Israel, have been using Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 as a method to train staff to operate on ventilators. They have also been using the device in real-time so not all doctors who are observing the patient have to be physically present in the room; this in turn helps to lower the spread of the virus.
© Sheba Medical Center
Surgical procedures are another area in which AR/VR tech is being adopted in an increasing rate . Visualizations of internal organs through augmented reality is incredibly helpful for surgeons, many of whom need as much information as they can while they conduct surgical operations. A great example of a firm in this space is SentiAR, based out of St. Louis, Missouri. SentiAR describes themselves as a “3D augmented reality platform featuring real-time holographic visualization of the patient’s anatomy”, completely “hands-free”. This tech has the potential to completely revolutionize how surgeries are conducted. Surgeons gain a swath of information with AR-imaging and surgeries may be performed more precisely and have a greater chance of succeeding.
© SentiAR, Inc.
Our very own Alon Grinshpoon, CEO of echoAR, has contributed to the research on AR and its use in medical procedures such a vascular interventions prior to founding the company. During such minimally invasive surgical procedures, physicians maneuver catheters and wires through a patient’s blood vessels to reach a desired location in the body. Since the relevant anatomy is typically not directly visible in these procedures, Grinshpoon and the team at Columbia University developed a hands-free augmented reality system that uses use voice and head tracking to assist physicians in 3D navigation.
© echoAR, Inc.
AR/VR tech is also demonstrating its useful in other parts of the medical profession. In fact, it is even being used in the field of psychology and psychotherapy. In their peer-reviewed chapter titled “Virtual and Augmented Reality: New Frontiers for Clinical Psychology”, Sara Ventura, Rosa M. Baños, and Cristina Botella describe the therapeutic role of AR/VR for those suffering from a mental illness. They find that the “virtual environment” can be regarded as a place where “behaviors, feelings, and human experience can be studied and controlled in a rigorous way,” which in turn helps enable “patients feel more secure during therapy.” AR/VR thus has the potential to completely revolutionize the way therapy is conducted and may help patients suffering from mental illnesses to progress more successfully through their treatment.
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echoAR is committed to ensuring that AR/VR developers who are building resources to help combat COVID-19 have the tools they need to proceed. To that end, we’re making our cloud resources free to use for AR/VR developers in the healthcare space. We also recognize the power of an organized community dedicated to finding effective solutions against the virus, so we would like to highlight hackathons such as the Coronavirus Hackathon and the MIT COVID19 Challenge for bringing the community together to solve this pressing challenge. We can beat this virus together! By Abhishek Hariharan
echoAR (http://www.echoAR.xyz; Techstars ’19) is a cloud platform for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) that provides tools and server-side infrastructure to help developers & companies quickly build and deploy AR/VR apps and experiences.