Mixed reality offers a glimpse of medical future

A multidisciplinary, cross-school project to design and create innovative augmented reality apps for medical education and training.

In 2017, the University of Dundee as part of a strategic partnership with world-leading medical technology company, Medtronic, launched a multidisciplinary, cross-school project to design and create innovative augmented reality apps for medical education and training.

Medtronic provided several Microsoft HoloLens devices and technical support. These devices are the first self-contained, holographic computers, which allows users to interact with holograms in the world around them.

While the University invited 50 students from 4 schools (Science and Engineering, Medicine, Dentistry and DJCAD), over 8 disciplines (anatomy, animation, computing, dentistry, biomedical engineering, forensic anthropology, medical art and medicine) to take part.

The students completed a three-month project in which they designed and built new medical equipment and teaching tools through the Microsoft HoloLens. The groups had access to expert support from 13 academics across the university and several visits from experts provide information about their relevant medical devices.

Despite the limited time and no previous knowledge of the technology, the students produce some really exciting products, which were presented to staff, fellow students, and a contingent of business unit managers from Medtronic at the end of the semester.

Medtronic were extremely impressed with the work and progress that had been made in the short period of time.

Seven students from across the University have been offered studentships with the company after completing a three-month project.

Professor Tracey Wilkinson, joint programme lead with Nicolas Denervaud from Medtronic, said, “The aim of the project was to design and create innovative augmented reality apps for medical education and training, using the Hololens device as a training tool.

Nicolas said:

We have a large number of active, fertile, creative minds in our university who are very comfortable with modern technology. Allowing our students to develop their ideas with support from Medtronic has led to immersive and fascinating learning.

The Medtronic team were really impressed with what had been achieved in a very short period, and one of the prototypes is going to be demonstrated at the IFOS congress (ENT world congress in Paris) at the end of this month. The company are now sponsoring seven summer internships, giving several of the students an opportunity to develop their ideas further.

Our internship students will be tasked with bringing an educational app in anatomy and ENT surgery to completion, so that it is ready for use by trainee health professionals.

The company has also agreed to run the project again next year, this time over six months to allow more time for development.