21 February 2012

AR Space Medical Knowhow

A new augmented reality unit developed by ESA can provide just-in-time medical expertise to astronauts. All they need to do is put on a head-mounted display for 3D guidance in diagnosing problems or even performing surgery. The Computer Assisted Medical Diagnosis and Surgery System, CAMDASS, is a wearable augmented reality prototype. Augmented reality merges actual and virtual reality by precisely combining computer-generated graphics with the wearer’s view. Ultrasound is leading the way because it is a versatile and effective medical diagnostic tool, and already available on the International Space Station. Future astronauts venturing further into space must be able to look after themselves. Depending on their distance from Earth, discussions with experts on the ground will involve many minutes of delay or even be blocked entirely.

CAMDASS uses a stereo head-mounted display and an ultrasound tool tracked via an infrared camera. The patient is tracked using markers placed at the site of interest. An ultrasound device is linked with CAMDASS and the system allows the patient’s body to be ‘registered’ to the camera and the display calibrated to each wearer’s vision. 3D augmented reality cue cards are then displayed in the headset to guide the wearer. These are provided by matching points on a ‘virtual human’ and the registered patient. Reference ultrasound images give users an indication of what they should be seeing, and speech recognition allows hands-free control. The prototype has been tested for usability at Saint-Pierre University Hospital in Brussels, Belgium, with medical and nursing students, Belgian Red Cross and paramedic staff.

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