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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

Shaping Smarter Cities: Augmented Reality Puts Surgeons on the Cutting Edge Rick DeMeis

Empowering Innovation Shaping Smarter Cities

Augmented Reality (AR) takes the technologies developed for virtual reality vision systems and uses them to superimpose images and graphics on one's field of vision. Where the former provide an immersive environment created by a computer, as in a video game or simulation, and displayed on a headset, augmented technology adds graphical information to a real-world view.

The advent of MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) technologies has been an essential enabler of these vision displays. By allowing IMUs (Inertial Measurement Units), gyroscopes, and accelerometers like those from Analog Devices to be miniaturized to such an extent, headsets incorporating them are less cumbersome while retaining precise motion measurement. The latter is necessary to determine the direction of a wearer's field of view and his or her motion within the virtual or real world. Such data is processed so that the correct image and informative graphics are visible to the viewer. And sufficiently high frequency microelectronics and processing ensure timely image updates.

In medical, as in other fields, being able to visually simulate a surgical procedure (or maintenance on, say, a jet engine) advances the learning curve for students. Medical interns can easily repeat standard operations and procedures and gain "vision" into the body. Practicing physicians may use such technology to rehearse individual surgery based on a patient's unique physiology, minimizing discomfort and recovery time.

For example, a cutting-edge case of a medical augmented reality system has been developed by DAQRI and Touch Surgery. The former provides augmented reality vision systems and the latter surgical simulation software. Combining DAQRI's Smart GlassesTM with enhanced software instructions resulted in a surgeon training system, with projected use in operating rooms. The Smart Glasses include an Intel® CoreTM m7 processor and the Intel RealSenseTM LR200 Depth Sensor based on stereo imaging.

Future applications of augmented and virtual reality visualization may even take surgeons "within" the body for a micro voyage around and into an area of concern, based on data from advanced medical scans. With such a three-dimensional view of a tumor and surrounding tissue, for example, precise removal surgery could be plotted. With this capability, the science fiction of the '60s film Fantastic Voyage would become reality. In that movie, a submarine of medical professionals is miniaturized to enter the bloodstream of a scientist suffering from a blood clot.

That aside, AR vision systems, enabled by MEMS technologies as well as vision and processing advances, will allow virtual access within the body on a micro level to sharpen life-saving skills, ease surgery and recovery, and, hopefully, mitigate rising medical costs.

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Rick DeMeis is a freelance technology journalist, editor, and photographer. He was the original editor of Automotive Designline, taking that Website to the top of Google searches for automotive electronics design. Prior positions were Senior Technical Editor at Design News and Laser Focus World magazines, and Engineering Editor at Aerospace America. Rick also hosts the weekly radio segment Rick's Tech Talk on KOWS radio Santa Rosa, California. He has engineering degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with industry experience at Raytheon and Grumman.

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