The medical field is constantly pushing the boundaries of technology to bring new and improved ways of keeping people alive and healthy longer. It is little surprise then that the field of Medical Education also shares this affinity to new technologies, with Augmented Reality being one of the most compelling new tools available to educators.
Training in medical topics such as emergency room care, patient monitoring and even bedside manner are complex challenges because they incorporate not just technical skills, but also visceral and sometimes distressing human experiences. It is one thing learning how to replace a flat tire; it’s another thing learning how to treat a patient in an emergency room whose life depends on your performance.
How will future medicine look with augmented views?
Augmented Reality has often been a topic of discussion when it comes to technology in medicine. We have even seen demonstration videos from the likes of Philips and the University of California San Francisco about how the future of medicine will look with augmented views. These concepts of the (near) future promote the ideas of context dependent data being available in a care provider’s immediate visual field, saving crucial moments in difficult operations.
Many have also explored the benefits of connected devices, allowing doctors to get live updates on patients that may be on the other side of the hospital. Massive amounts of data can be crunched an summarized in the cloud then instantly fed to a wearable display, allowing the doctors and nurses to seamlessly jump between their responsibilities in their immediate surroundings and the vast digital resources available in modern medical databases.
But aside from the convenience and immediacy of digital information that AR can provide, it can also take medical training to a whole new level. The manner in which AR can combine physical, visual and auditory information into a single experience offers compelling use cases for medical training.
Campus Interactive and Sheffield Hallam University give “SimMan” some Personality
Metaio developers Campus Interactive built an innovative Junaio-based AR app in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University that adds a new element of realism to training sessions. Students were previously using “SimMan” dummies – highly specialized training dummies that simulate breathing, blood drawing and many other metrics. The missing piece to the puzzle though was a personality. According to AR lead Rupert Forsythe, for all the impressive things that SimMan can simulate, he was “still just an expressionless plastic dummy”.
Using Metaio’s 3D object tracking, Campus Interactive was able to overlay video of actors on top of the inanimate faces of the dummies. Recordings of actors presented symptoms and expressed visible stress and discomfort related to various scenarios. The videos were specially created with transparent backgrounds, creating a surprisingly realistic effect of live humans interacting in the place of the dummy when viewed through the Junaio augmented reality browser.
The aim of the project was “to create a feeling of empathy and enhance caring” during the training scenarios, and to bring these training sessions closer to the conditions of real-life situations. The application is a huge improvement over the outgoing solution of verbal descriptions of the scenarios. With presentation of symptoms and patient reactions realistically communicated through the AR app, trainees could focus less on imagining the training situation and more on practicing for the real life scenarios. As Assistant Dean, Jean Flannagan puts it:
“The introduction of augmented reality has been a hit with our students and staff and it has allowed us to realistically assess how our students are going to perform when they are out on the wards.”
BBC Click programme covered the application in a nice video:
AR in education is building momentum
Campus Interactive Media are not the only AR developers providing solutions for medicine. Researchers at the Hannover Medical School and University of Hildesheim, Germany also recently published a pilot project demonstrating the value of AR-assisted learning in medicine. This new study contributes to a growing body of academic research that is showing the value of integrating AR into education.
In a pilot project, the mobile Augmented Reality blended learning (“mARble”) app developed by the team was compared to textbook delivery of the same material. Through “mARble” participants were able to study the characteristics of a gunshot wound which was digitally superimposed onto a (healthy!) volunteer. While only a small pilot study, the researchers noted “the mARble group showed greater knowledge gain than the control group”. Other benefits have also been proposed including ethical sensitivity and reduced influence of the participant’s emotional state during the learning process due to the fact that the students are not exposed to the genuinely stressful environments of studying real trauma wounds in situ.
As has been noted before, the experiential aspect of AR lends itself to learning as it tends to enhance curiosity and increase interest in material. As Albrecht et al conclude: “The mARble group performed considerably better regarding learning efficiency; there are hints for activating components of the mARble concept that may serve to fascinate the participants and possibly boost interest in the topic”.
Learn more about project mARble here: http://www.marble-app.com/