In case you missed it, earlier this week Microsoft unveiled their latest peripheral gadget to accompany Windows 10, theHoloLens. Star Trek fans in particular will enjoy the “holodeck” style augmented reality the goggles produce – rather than the completely immersive world previous virtual reality software offers, the HoloLens blends with the visual space, superimposing the holograms onto physical objects. The 3D images are manipulable, tracking hand gestures via a camera on the front of the device. The smart goggles are wireless and don’t require tethering to another device. Users can move around freely, provided none of the holograms trip them up.
I’m already a little skeptical about the HoloLens because it seems like an upgraded version of Google Glass – which despite its innovative technology, failed to make an impact. Google Glass’s largest fault was that it provided plenty of creative high-tech solutions, but not for problems that the average consumer was experiencing. Similarly, I’m not sure that the public will embrace this Star Trek fantasy made into technology, because the HoloLens will be a bit expensive for everyday applications.
The problem with marketing these devices may be an issue of target audience. While the average consumer didn’t find much practical usability in Google Glass, healthcare professionals have found multitudes of applications for the device. It’s already been implemented to provide captions for the hard of hearing, aid in surgical work, and broadcast real-time video evaluations of patients from ambulances. The HoloLens takes this one step further by augmenting reality into something that can be altered with hand gestures.
The Microsoft HoloLens: evolution from science-fiction into augmented reality.For healthcare professionals, this opens up a range of possibilities to use the smart goggles. I imagine the HoloLens as a valuable tool for modeling surgery, for the benefit of medical students learning surgical techniques and professionals preparing themselves for difficult procedures. Combined with 3D imaging software, the virtual “patient” could be superimposed onto any table, and the image manipulation software can allow a very realistic simulation of surgery.
Further, it doesn’t have to stop at the simulation of traditional surgical procedures – surgeons will be able to take trial runs at experimental surgeries without collateral damage. The holographic patient would presumably be endowed with vitals, which would fluctuate as the procedure continues, allowing the surgeon to assess the risk of damage. After the surgery is completed, further manipulation of the surgical site can be analyzed for any physical damage that occurred as a result of the surgery – providing information for a potential post-op treatment plan.
Surgery is just one way I see the HoloLens being a beneficial tool for healthcare professionals, as well as patients. It could be used to give patients a more complete understanding of upcoming procedures, providing a virtual model for medical professionals to explain, and patients to peruse. That would ideally assuage any anxiety the patient has – I would certainly be reassured about any manipulation on my own body if I viewed it performed successfully in front of me on a virtual model. The only anxiety remaining would be hoping that the simulation doesn’t add ten pounds.
Would you pay a potentially enormous amount to live a Star Trek fantasy and augment and manipulate your world? What other medical applications could the HoloLens produce? Comment below!
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine), Virtual reality