Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans have for a long time offered medical professionals a view of the body which cannot be seen directly by looking at the patient. However, researchers at the University of Alberta are now working on ProjectDR which looks to combine the underlying CT and MRI tech with something much newer, augmented reality (AR). As ProjectDR looks to add context to the use of medical images, be they CT, MRI, or any other medical scanning technique which looks to highlight the inside of the human body.
ProjectDR essentially allows medical professions to see those same scans projected onto a patient's body. Adding to that, ProjectDR intends for the system to be responsive - so when the patient moves or turns, the projected imagery moves in unison. The end result being a scan that not only highlights what is happening inside, but can be viewed and understood in a similar way to how medical professions might investigate visible issues and symptoms on a patient. The researchers explain, ProjectDR makes use of “infrared cameras and markers on the patient’s body” for the basis of the motion-tracking system which is the coupled with the projector to complete the full and 3D-like picture. The researchers further explain that some of the software had to be specifically custom written to account for the marrying of the projected image with the movement of the patient. As this proved to be “the really difficult part,” according to Ian Watts, one of the researchers behind ProjectDR and the one responsible for the custom code
While the obvious benefits of ProjectDR is its use within a clinical setting the researchers do point out the technology could prove just as useful in other areas, with teaching mentioned as one example. At present, however, there is no particular time-frame expected for the technology to make its way to a real-world setting with the researchers stating the next step is to assess the advantages and disadvantages of ProjectDR “in a surgical simulation laboratory.” The video below provides an insight into how the technology has advanced so far and what sort of end result patients and clinicians can expect.