Mixed reality, or MR, is known as a combination of virtual and augmented reality elements where physical and digital objects exist and interact in real time, ranging from natural to virtual environments. The Microsoft HoloLens utilizes this technology through the use of an untethered mixed reality headset. According to Microsoft, it is “the first self-contained, holographic computer, enabling you to engage with your digital content and interact with holograms in the world around you.”

The HoloLens has impressive features like multi-dimensional full-colour holograms that interact with the surfaces of physical environments, it contains advanced sensors to analyse the environment you are in, it can record pictures and videos of the holograms with the built-in cameras, you can create and shape your own holograms, it understands your gestures, gaze and voice and it is untethered with no wiring necessary for the device to function. This technology allows users to interact with the real world in a natural way while also engaging with virtual elements.

With these impressive and advanced capabilities, this noteworthy technology in combination with applications is making headway in the healthcare industry to help both students and healthcare professionals gain a vast knowledge of human anatomy. It not only improves staff training, patient care and educating healthcare students, but also builds surgical skills and allows for less risk and more efficiency in operating rooms. The technology can create new and interactive ways of learning, building simulated environments for students and professionals to practice before engaging with real patients.

We are in an era of innovation for surgery where doctors can operate more precisely and use holograms to visualize deeper into the internal systems of the human body. This mixed reality headset provides hospitals with powerful care allowing for hands-free help to healthcare professionals so they can focus more on their patients, and make better and faster medical decisions.

How the HoloLens is Impacting Healthcare

There are many different apps and systems that are used in partnership with the HoloLens to better improve the healthcare industry both in and out of operating rooms. Some of their features include helping with removing tumours, simulating ultrasounds and childbirth scenarios, analyzing all elements of the heart, helping the blind and deaf navigate in their environments and completely dissecting the human body and all its internal systems and organs. Here are some of the most innovative and impactful companies taking advantage of the HoloLens technology

HoloSurg: This system is used to assist surgeons in removing malignant muscle tumours. It combines the view of both physical and virtual objects, displaying patient information and 2D/3D scans such as MRI, X-ray and CT scans so surgeons can accurately locate the position of a tumour and use the scans as a guide to its removal. This information can easily be manipulated, resized, zoomed-in and moved around the room with simple hand gestures and voice commands. Surgeons can access the information they need while still interacting with other medical staff and their patients in the physical environment. The surgeon’s view can also be shared or broadcasted live for educational training. Overall, the whole system greatly reduces the level of risk and the time in surgery.

LucinaAR: Created by CAE Healthcare, LucinaAR uses the Microsoft HoloLens to simulate childbirth to train medical students. This system involves the use of life-size manikins of a mother and fetus with a uterus that expands and joints that move. Students can view on the manikin through the HoloLens the different stages of pregnancy and the various difficult scenarios of childbirth. Students can practice techniques to be prepared for uncommon pregnancies and emergency deliveries. They can view what is happening with the patient internally and see the fetus descending the birthing canal. Students can see how their actions affect the health and safety of the baby and the mother.

Learning Heart: Students can learn about all aspects and elements of the heart with 3D holographic visuals that can be viewed from all angles. Different elements of the heart can be separated and its appearance can be adjusted. With this app, they can be reshaped, moved and rotated and descriptions of each part of the heart can be read or narrated.

HoloAnatomy: This HoloLens anatomy app was created in partnership with Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic. Medical students and professionals can interactively and virtually dissect a human body to see its internal structures and organs. This app is often used as a replacement for using real cadavers. HoloAnatomy is known for providing high quality and greatly detailed imaging of the human anatomy.

HoloPatient: This app allows medical professionals and students to interact with holographic patients and simulated medical scenarios. They can make patient assessments and diagnosis. The holographic patients can show signs of heart attacks, burns and anaphylaxis, allowing medical students to think critically.

VimedixAR: Created by CAE Healthcare, this manikin-based system uses the HoloLens for realistic cardiac, lung and abdominal ultrasound simulations. This technology allows users to enlarge and rotate anatomy and then view how the ultrasound beam cuts through the human body.

HoloHear:  This is an experimental prototype app using the HoloLens to help people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing understand speech by using a 3D model to translate spoken word into sign language. This technology includes two settings: listen mode and learning mode. The listen mode allows deaf people to process and understand speech and the learning mode allows a hearing person to see in 3D how to say different words in sign language.

Cardiolens: With the use of the HoloLens, it allows users to see a real-time visualization of blood flow and vital signs on the person in front of them. With the simple act of looking at a person, they can see their physiological state. The user can see another person’s blood flow signals and heart rate, tracking when they are stressed, calm or exerting a lot of energy. Surgeons can also use the technology to see if there is proper blood flow to a recently transplanted organ.

Nomadeec: In partnership with the HoloLens, Nomadeec is a company that offers a telehealth app for paramedics and EMTs to help diagnose and treat patients in the field. Healthcare professionals can also use it to take pictures of their patients, retrieve vital signs, video conference remote physicians and conduct ECGs to help diagnose patients.

White Cane: This is an experimental HoloLens app helping the visually impaired navigate their surrounding environment and anticipate surfaces thanks to the use of sounds. According to Microsoft, a ray comes out from the user’s eye and then hits a surface, this impact makes a sound that gets louder or softer depending on how far they are from the surface or object, giving the user a better sense of distance. Each surface has its own unique sound, giving the user an idea of what kind of object or surface they are dealing with.

It is evident that the HoloLens is making a serious impact on the healthcare industry for the better. It is especially helpful in guiding students and healthcare professionals to develop the best medical skills and practices to be more efficient and aid their patients. With the impressive HoloLens developments in mind, it will be interesting to see how the healthcare industry will continue to evolve with new technology to better help patients and improve their overall quality of life.

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