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In January 2015, Microsoft introduced one of its latest innovations: HoloLens. It is a headset, designed to bring the digital world into the physical world through holograms. The HoloLens runs holographic display technology, which allows users to see 3-D objects within their environment.
During the introduction of the device, an individual wearing the HoloLens played Minecraft (a game that enables its players to create different shapes by using building blocks) using a combination of virtual objects and existing furniture. Although intriguing, the demonstration left many unanswered questions. What can we expect the real-world use cases of the Microsoft hologram technology to be? Will it be met in the same way consumers responded to other glassware, such as Google Glass?
Microsoft didn't keep consumers waiting too long for a deeper look at what the device can do. Three months after the initial announcement -- at its recent Build Developer Conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco -- Microsoft conducted more demonstrations, covering a number of vertical markets. The three modes of interacting with the HoloLens: gaze, gesture and voice input are partly responsible for why there are opportunities for this technology to be deployed in healthcare.
Other wearable devices such as Google Glass and Microsoft Kinect were among some of the most innovative produced in the past few years, but they failed to achieve widespread adoption. It's too early to determine if HoloLens will garner a high adoption rate or be used only by a few curious people.
In healthcare, common questions asked when a new technology is introduced include:
- How does it improve patients' health?
- How does it reduce costs?
- Does it improve patient safety and reduce medical errors?
- Is it easy to use?
- Is the technology HIPAA-compliant?
What HoloLens brings to the table
To envision what the Microsoft hologram technology will offer to healthcare, we can review past demonstrations. An example that took center stage during the Microsoft Build event was the use of the HoloLens as an educational tool.
A collaboration between Microsoft and Case Western Reserve University showed how medical students can interact with a 3-D rendering of the human body, instead of using cadavers. The device also enables people to see a fully-animated 3-D heart from any angle. The HoloLens offered a detailed view of the human body and gave users the ability to navigate through muscle tissue to internal organs.
The collaborative care model may help push the adoption of technology like HoloLens. For physicians and other medical professionals working together on a patient's care, the Microsoft hologram technology device can be a way to view and share medical information such as 3-D medical imaging (e.g., MRIs or a 3-D rendering of human organs). By offering new methods through which physicians can communicate, the HoloLens platform can contribute to a more efficient healthcare system.
It is unknown when HoloLens headsets will be seen in hospitals, exam rooms or medical classrooms. How soon HoloLens or similar devices will become a regular part of patient care depends on the availability of healthcare-targeted applications and the costs associated with the technology.
About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.
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