Augmented reality for healthcare improvements

Sep 1, 2020 | Medical Equipment, Technology File

The market for XR (virtual, augmented and mixed reality) is predicted exceed $30bn by 2030, says Dr Charlotte Coles, IDTechEx Technology Analyst.

Augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR) – all part of the “Spatial reality” family – are being used more and more in hospitals by doctors and healthcare professionals to provide them with a handsfree working environment, greater flexibility with overlaying information and processing information from its camera. 

Different companies have different naming classifications for their products. Some call their products mixed reality or merged reality, even though the superimposed images do not interact spatially with the real world, some replace augmented with applied reality. Some companies call their product augmented reality when the product has an opaque video display and, therefore, does not ‘augment’ the real world.

There are typically two terms for spatial reality devices where the user can see the real world.
•    Augmented reality (AR). These devices overlay digital content on top of the real world.
•    Mixed reality (MR). These devices add superimposed digital content that superficially interacts with the environment in real-time.

Different headsets fulfil different requirements – but most augmented and mixed reality products currently cater to an enterprise audience over a consumer market, but this will change in the future. 

Recently the versatility of mixed and augmented reality products has come to the forefront of the news, with an Imperial led project at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Doctors have been wearing the Microsoft Hololens headsets whilst working on the front lines of the COVID pandemic, to aid them in their care for their patients.

Another example is allowing a surgeon to see the heart of a patient during surgery. A recent report by the BBC (source) showed a surgeon who was able to see real-time information in 3D and a direct view of tools inside the heart with technology from SentiAR.

Since the release of the Google Glass product in 2013, augmented reality and mixed reality products have come to the forefront of both consumer and enterprise markets. Over the 2017-2019 period, there have been peaks of interest in the different XR product types. These peaks and troughs tend to be around new releases of products and holiday periods when people acquire the technology.