A Role for Virtual & Augmented Reality in Healthcare
Bryan M. Rogoff, OD, MBA, CPHM, FAAO
If you are a big Marvel movie fan like I am, you probably love Tony Stark’s tech toys. As an optometrist, I really enjoy the visual effects of Ironman's virtual displays and how it tracks his eye movement, similar to the Terminator movies (also a BIG fan!). This would be amazingly useful in today’s environment; however, a lot of this is already here and utilizes many optometric concepts to drive the technology. The concept of virtual reality is not new. In fact, the first inventions of virtual reality (VR) were in the 1800s with Charles Wheatstone with his Stereoscope and Thomas Edison and William Dickson with the Kinetoscope.1 The 20th century had tremendous technological advancements with the view-master, head-mounted displays (HMDs), and datagloves, while the 21st century made virtual and augmented reality a “true” reality.1 The future of these technologies is now being used to enhance business, education, public safety, and healthcare with physician education and diagnosis.
Virtual and augmented reality are two different concepts and have different uses, and now the concept of mixed reality (MR) has a role as well. Virtual reality (VR) is when users have a complete immersed experience that blocks the physical world and is largely used in gaming. Today, it usually requires a head-mounted display (HMDs) and is used in healthcare for planning surgery and other travel experiences.
Augmented reality (AR) is different where it overlays digital elements into the real world and uses some type of display (like a smartphone) to project these overlays. However, this can be limiting. When you combine virtual and augmented reality elements, mixed reality is formed where digital overlays are projected using holographic lenses. Digital objects interact in real-time with real-world objects. Both these technologies are frequently seen in gaming and becoming more popular in business, travel and tourism, and healthcare applications.
Augmented Reality apps are typically categorized by group, either marker-based or location-based, that utilize optometric principles to engineer the combination of virtual and real worlds. Concepts of field of view (FOV), inter-pupillary distance (IPD), exit pupil, accommodation, vergences, stereopsis, and motion parallax are just some of them where both hardware and software must process to have digital overlays that scale and move appropriately.2 But the biggest breakthrough that has been heavily invested recently is eye-tracking.
Eye-tracking has been found to determine the user’s level of attention and is a form of biometrics that is used as an interface system.3 Devices with eye-tracking technology enhance VR, AR, and MR user interactions and are expected to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 37.1% through 2014 to reach about $1.75 billion by 2025.3 The technology allows the interface system to have better privacy and security, which allows the user to feel more connected and provides better feedback. Data analytics are performed in real-time to determine the user’s attention, so developers, marketers, and other stakeholders understand what digital content has both positive and negative reactions by what, and how long, objects that are focused by the user.3
AR has become a powerful tool in medical education, surgical planning, and brain surgery. In a clinical setting, AR provides a real-time interventional scan that is different from computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which are both snapshots of tissues prior. Companies like Magic-Leap and BrainLab have combined assets to produce AR products to enhance the removal of brain tumors, in addition to producing application solutions for radiotherapy and intensive care unit.4 Other studies are being conducted such as ProjectDR where CT and MRI images are overplayed on a patient’s body, and Microsoft’s Hololens is aiding surgeons to identify operating targets to reduce the margin of error, along with decreasing surgical time.4
Bryan M. Rogoff, OD, MBA, CPHM has a unique background in areas of holistic eye care, business management and healthcare reform. He specializes in LEAN clinical management and operations, technology implementation, healthcare strategy, and strategic partnerships. Currently, he serves as a consultant for for the FDA, Immediate Past-President & Education Chairperson for the Maryland Optometric Association, Federal Keyperson and Meetings Committee Member for the American Optometric Association, reviewer for the Council on Optometric Practitioner Education and is the Founder of Eye-Exec Consulting, LLC. To contact Bryan, visit www.eye-exec.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.