Compared to virtual reality (VR) that creates a 3D world disassociated from reality, augmented reality (AR) provides live or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video or graphics. These unique features enable AR to revolutionise the current state of medicine.

Here are five medical devices using AR technologies.

1. EyeDecide: Changing patient lifestyles through simulations

Photo credit: Screenshot from EyeDecide app
Photo credit: Screenshot from EyeDecide app

When patients fail or struggle to describe their symptoms to the doctors accurately, particularly in ophthalmology, AR may be helpful with the patient education.

EyeDecide is a medical application that uses a camera display to simulate the influence of specific conditions on one’s vision. Doctors can show simulation of the vision of a patient who is affected by a specific condition using the application.

As an example, the application can demonstrate the impact of cataract and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) to patients and help them understand their symptoms as well as their actual condition. Hence, when patients experience the simulation of long-term effects of certain conditions, it could encourage them to make positive changes in their lifestyle.

2. Medsights Tech: A real time surgical assistant

Video credit: Medsights Tech

AR technologies are also actively promoted in surgeries. Whether it is minimally invasive procedure or locating a tumour in a liver, AR can now make surgeries more efficient and treat patients seamlessly.

In addition to Hololens that display real data-anatomical models, Medsights Tech has also developed software to test the possibility of using AR to create 3D reconstructions of tumours. The complex image reconstructing technology assists surgeons with x-ray views without any radiation exposure in real time.

3. VA-ST: Allowing the blind to "see" again

"The majority of people who are legally blind, have some remaining vision," said Stephen Hicks, researcher and founder of VA-ST. To help these people, the VA-ST visor was designed to be used daily such as recognising faces, driving, reading and avoiding objects in their path.

The device works by creating a rough stencil outline around a person’s face for recognition and helps improve situations with poor contrast. These AR smart specs hope to help legally blind navigate and make the most of their remaining vision.

4. Proximie: Collaborative surgery across distances made possible

Proximie, much like Medsights Tech offers AR technology for remote collaboration among doctors on a surgery, as well as medical education for surgical training.

“We needed to find a way for technology to democratise access to surgery and really crowdsource all that knowledge into one place where we can all benefit from it,” said Nadine Harach-Haram, London surgeon.

Proximie consists of a sensor that overlays images of the consulting surgeon's hand onto a video of the patient through a tablet - such as an iPad - guiding doctors through surgery in real time. This allows them to see where to make an incision, for instance.

The application launched last year and made the headlines when a doctor in Beirut led surgeons in Gaza through a reconstructive surgery. It is also being used at University College London to teach medical students and medical device companies have also used Proximie for training purposes.

5. AccuVein: Vein detector for intravenous injections

Video credit: AccuVein  

A start-up company, AccuVein, is also using AR technology to make finding veins easier for doctors and nurses. Using AR technology, a handheld scanner is projected over a patient's skin to show where the veins are.

“40% of intravenous injections miss the vein on the first stick, with the numbers getting worse for children and the elderly,” said Vinny Luciano, marketing specialist at AccuVein.

Luciano estimated that the technique has been used on more than 10 million patients, making finding a vein on the first try 3.5 times easier. MIMS

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