Centre Discusses: AR & VR in Healthcare

August 5, 2015

Are we all hardworking bumblebees 24/7 at the Centre? Fortunately, no. When we’re not busy typing away at reports or finishing the last touches to a prototype, we sometimes find ourselves on the ever popular Slack. We use Slack as our informal messaging app to communicate within and across teams in the office, where we go from sharing funny tidbits on our #gif-party channel to deliberating intricacies behind the design of data-driven interfaces.

Every now and then, a colleague’s post sparks thoughtful responses and friendly debates, generating new insights that expand understanding of our own work and the larger context that surrounds the work:

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The latest clip from Microsoft HoloLens revealed a compelling visual demonstration on how augmented reality (AR) could bolster the study of anatomy, offering students the ability to interact with the human body in a way that traditional cadavers cannot. Similarly, virtual reality (VR) technologies can offer educational experiences that allow the user to immerse in interactive environments for product design and development. Currently, the field of view (FOV) is quite limited in AR technologies, creating a tunnel vision, while VR technologies offers a full FOV.

Despite the advances, how will it fit in everyday life and workplaces? Although the technologies have become smaller, portable, more affordable for general use, the “helmet factor” remains as an obstacle to wide-adoption.

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Perhaps instead of using these technologies on a daily basis, most successes would be found under professional settings and select use cases, such as employing the device to perform complex surgical procedures. Already, we are seeing that next generation of Google Glass will be tailored towards the work environment.

Beyond professional use, these tools can also enhance patient perspectives, such as furthering patient education. Before a patient steps into a surgical room, a deeper understanding of the procedure to be performed may provide more ease. Families of patients can also enter the point of view of the patient by seeing through their own eyes how illnesses affect their loved ones.

So how does this intersect with our human factors and design work? For one, future designs for these technologies will have to take into account user interaction with the device and between different users within the clinical room. Questions will include: At which point will the surgeon wear the technology? How will alerts be displayed on screen? In what priority sequence? How will the surgeon communicate with those in the room without the technology? This is what we will have to keep in mind as we start designing for AR and VR technologies.

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