Defining Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is a technology that blends real-world elements with virtual ones. For example, a person might visit a trade show and aim their smartphone at a display to activate an AR experience that allows them to see a computer-generated version of a product.
This approach is particularly useful for getting people excited about prototypes or helping them understand the potential of any item not yet finalized.
AR vs. VR: What’s The Difference?
Virtual reality is another buzz-worthy technology that continues to capture attention and fascinate people in the medical sector and outside of it. Although VR and AR have some similarities, they’re not the same.
Both technologies typically respond to real-time changes, such as how a person moves. Thus, the technologies need extremely low latency to work seamlessly for users. Additionally, VR and AR seek to give people experiences that are not possible to achieve quickly in the real world alone. For example, home furnishing brand IKEA offered an AR app that allowed people to place virtual pieces in their homes to check dimensions.
However, whereas AR incorporates some versions of the actual environment into its results, VR aims to give people a completely immersive experience that begins once they strap on the required headsets. A person engaging with a VR experience will see everything happening inside the headset, but the AR experience happens by enhancing things within an individual’s environment.
Another difference between VR and AR is that the latter arguably has a wider variety of possible applications in other industries, such as manufacturing. It’s not practical for people who are working on a factory floor to all don VR headsets. However, they may use far less cumbersome AR-enabled glasses, goggles, or screens to assist with a broad assortment of tasks ranging from quality assurance to assembly.
The Potential, Benefits and Use Cases for AR and VR in Healthcare
An analysis from MarketsandMarkets profiled the expected growth of AR and VR in healthcare from 2017-2025. The company anticipates a combined annual growth rate of 30.7% during the timeframe studied.
There’s plenty of potential for VR and AR in healthcare, but how might people use it, specifically? Surgical planning could become easier. Even the most experienced surgeons sometimes encounter surprises when operating on patients, but these high-tech solutions may make those instances less common.
Researchers have investigated using VR to educate patients before their surgeries, too. For example, a person can see a digitized version of their brain, along with the problem a surgeon needs to fix and how they will do it.
Beyond teaching patients about the procedures they need, VR and AR can help surgeons plan their interventions, making them less likely to encounter surprises or feel unprepared. Some technologies show digital information appearing on top of a patient’s body in real-time.
Also, these technologies could improve training in medical school. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University embarked on an AR project that could see medical students trade their anatomy apps for AR. An augmented reality tool displayed an internal view of the body on top of a student’s physique. The technology also included a gesture-sensitive user interface, allowing people to interact with the AR representation.
The Top Augmented and Virtual Reality Companies in Healthcare
The promises of medical augmented reality and virtual reality are compelling enough to get anyone excited about what’s possible. These companies intend to be at the forefront of VR and AR healthcare.