New dimensions for wearable tech

December 5, 2014 in Medical Technology

And here you thought Google Glass was the ultimate head-mounted game-changer for healthcare.

Another (admittedly smaller) Mountain View, Calif. tech company is hoping its own futuristic goggles will be just as transformative to healthcare as many expect Google Glass will be. Atheer Labs has developed what it calls “wearable augmented reality.”

Leveraging Atheer’s three-dimensional immersive computing platform – offering wearers a way to interact with and manipulate data and devices that surround them – its 3D glasses, among many other uses, could be coming to clinical setting soon.

As Soulaiman Itani, founder and CEO of Atheer Labs, pointed out in press statement late this past year explaining the technology, there’s a lot to think about when designing wearable computers. For example, “people cannot wear glasses that are more than 100 grams for longer than twenty minutes,” he said.

“We were able to get all of the functionality and immersive experience in 75 grams,” he said, “and we’re now putting it in the hands of the developers.”

So for the past years or so the Atheer Developer Portal has offered access to the wearable device technology, and smart people have been working on applications that “augment the world around the user in 3D,” enabling interaction via touch, voice or head motion.

Healthcare is in Atheer’s sights. It’s been showing off the technology at various healthcare conference, touting the ways it could change workflows offer new insights into smarter care delivery.

Sina Fateh, MD, is executive vice president at Atheer Labs, where he’s in charge of optics development and the visual experience of the wearable technology. An ophthalmologist, Fateh has “expertise in binocular vision, smart glasses, visual image processing, and digital eyecare,” according to Atheer officals.

Fateh tells Healthcare IT News the “augmented interactive reality” offered by these new 3D goggles can “enable clinicians to better serve patients in today’s hospitals by increasing efficiency, safety and privacy.”

Efficiency gains could be in the offing too, he says. “Clinicians currently rely on desktop computers or tablets to access patients’ information. With the Atheer AiR platform, clinicians can now see information on a mobile heads-up display and have access to all this wherever they are, at the patients side, or on-the-go, and all hands-free.”

He says the glasses could also help in terms of safety and sanitation – “clinicians to access and navigate patient information with gesture control without the need to ever touch a physical surface” – and offer new dimensions to the patient record: “stereo see-through optics that allows clinicians to see medical records and images in high-resolution right in front of their eyes.”

How are these 3D glasses different from, say, Google Glass, or other immersive reality technology such as Oculus Rift?

For one thing, this technology was specifically developed with input from “scientists, doctors, researchers” and other medical technologists, says Fateh.

“On a more technical level, Google Glass is a small, monocular display that can present only very limited information to the wearer, unlike Atheer’s binocular glasses which provide a large display area in front of you for a rich experience,” he says.

“The interaction is also very different, with Google Glass relying on voice commands and a touchpad on the side, whereas the Atheer glasses are able to see your hands and fingers, enabling the user to naturally reach out and touch, tap and swipe the digital information they see displayed.”

And while Oculus Rift is a virtual reality platform, “where the user is transported into a virtual simulated world and separated from reality,” Atheer’s is an “augmented reality platform that overlays relevant information onto the real world you see around you.”

Notably, the AiR platform is fully compatible with the existing Android platform, he adds – enabling most Android applications to run directly.

In the next year Atheer will be “field testing” the technology in hospitals and other clinical settings, says Fateh: “We are eager to see our technology be put to use, and work with early adopters to identify other uses for it that will hugely impact the future of healthcare.”

The company already has early users developing medical apps, and as early as 2015, these workflows “will be put into use in a selected number of medical facilities,” he says. “It will probably take another year to get this technology into most modern medical facilities.”

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