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Holograms, headsets and health care: The future is now

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Imagine a future where someone in rural New Brunswick is treated by a remote physical therapist by standing in front of a camera that provides a three-dimensional version in real time.

Or you can train in aircraft engine repair with a hologram instead of the real thing.

For Scott Bateman, these scenarios are within the realm of possibility, something he’s working on at the University of New Brunswick.

SPECTRAL is a spatial computing training and research lab where Bateman, professor and director of the lab, works with companies to teach students and industry professionals about spatial computing and variations in reality.

Virtual reality places the user in an artificial environment, augmented reality places virtual things in the real world, and mixed reality places objects in the real world fixed so that they do not move with the user.

An aerospace engineer is working on an airplane engine using a mixed reality headset. (Provided by University of New Brunswick)

Bateman says using mixed reality to do this kind of training allows people to make mistakes and learn from them.

“The great thing we can do with our students is connect them to industry and real-world problems, and solve these real-world problems with the technology available today.”

“It will … be a more rigorous, more applied lens on their education … making their experience more practical than if they were doing something like a typical classroom-based teaching experience. I’ll put it in real-world terms right away.”

Professor and Director of SPECTRAL, Bateman works with companies to teach students and industry professionals about spatial computing and variations in reality. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

Bateman says trainers may be on the other side of the world, but wearing goggles allows them to see what students and employees are seeing and use floating virtual annotations to provide guidance. We can provide.

He said it is also working with the prosthetic clinic at the UNB’s Institute for Biomedical Engineering in Fredericton.

prosthetic leg training

Bateman says people go to a clinic to get a prosthesis fitted, but when they get home they don’t always have a strength training regimen to prepare them for the prosthesis. This leads many to abandon their prostheses, he said.

A mixed reality simulation where you pick up blocks to train your prosthetic leg. Bateman says that using an augmented reality headset, patients can look down and see a virtual prosthesis, training their muscles to manipulate it, Bateman said. (HCI Labs/University of New Brunswick)

But by using an augmented reality headset, patients can look down and see the prosthetic leg virtually, he said, allowing them to exercise their muscles just like they would with a real prosthesis.

For such projects, Bateman said, ideally the technology would be publicly funded or covered by insurance. Comparing the roughly $4,000 cost of an augmented reality headset to the cost of prosthetic limbs, he said, increasing adherence and use of prosthetic limbs in the future is a “worthy investment.”

For projects like a mixed reality physiotherapist, which can be done using a special 3D camera, it is now possible to do something similar using a laptop or tablet’s webcam. Bateman said.

Augmented reality headset used for prosthetic leg training. Bateman says many people go to a clinic to have a prosthesis fitted, but when they get home they don’t have the strength training to get the prosthesis fitted. (HCI Labs/University of New Brunswick)

“In that scenario, you might have the hardware at home and be able to consult with a physical therapist remotely,” he said.

The lab recently announced a partnership with Fredericton-based Kognitiv Spark.

Kognitiv Spark also works in mixed reality. Duncan McSporran, the company’s chief operating officer, said the university and he have a good relationship with Bateman.

Star Trek or current technology?

He said that Kognitiv Spark not only brings their software to projects, but also to customer connections.

McSporran says he calls their technology “current technology” because what seems futuristic, like holograms, is actually available today.

“It’s kind of what people associate it with — Star Trek With the holodeck and all that,” McSporran said. Again, we do a lot of work to make the technology truly usable. ”

According to him, one of the amazing things about holograms is that three-dimensional objects can stay fixed in space instead of moving with the person wearing the technology.

McSporran said a lot of thought went into developing the technology, not just how it would benefit industry and the public sector, but also how it would “overcome some of the challenges we face as a community.” says there is.

He said New Brunswick has all the “things” to be considered a global center of excellence in this kind of technology.

“The sky really is the limit.”

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