How AR Glasses Are Helping Surgeons Remove Tumors

The medical field is often one of the first fields to benefit from a jump in technology. This makes sense, as we are always pushing for an edge in the most critical realms of life-saving techniques and innovative medicine. One piece of technology that did not seem to have much use in the hospitals augmented reality (AR), has proven to be groundbreaking.

Medical usage of AR has been predicted in technology communities for some time, but only recently have researchers poured time and resources into creating equipment that goes beyond proof of concept. One such device is emerging from Germany. Scientists at Fraunhofer IGD (Institute for Computer Graphics) have developed something called the 3D-ARILE, equipment that has AR at the heart of its infrastructure.

Although the science of tumors and skin cancer has come a long way, there are still many gaps in our predictive knowledge. Even in a surgical setting, doctors are faced with challenges when determining if a tumor has been completely removed. This is where the 3D-ARILE will lend a helping hand. By using sophisticated glasses with AR in the lens, surgeons can look at body parts with virtual markers guiding the way. AR capabilities highlight sites that are malignant with green neon, and can precisely guide surgeons to specific areas.

While this may seem somewhat simple from a technical standpoint (in an age where everyday cell phones have some amazing AR capabilities), it is most certainly not. Teams from three separate German laboratories combined efforts to perfect the 3D-ARILE’s abilities.

This medical technology relies on navigation software, stereoscopes, infrared camera systems in coordination, and indocyanine green fluorescent dye in order to make the 3D-ARILE complex possible. And lives are on the line when it is used which means the margin for error is zero. Even the dye is a medical breakthrough; before this, radioactive materials (such as technetium-99m) were often used to highlight malignant tumors.

The future seems wide open, and the medical community is relying on the capability of optical researchers to lead the way.

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