Revolutionary Transformation with AR and VR Technology
Dr. Raman Menon Unnikrishnan
A recent presentation made by Dr. Mike Wesolowski, the CEO of Luxonic Technologies, not only wowed attendees with the quality of its content and delivery, but also generated spirited discussion on a variety of topics. The seminar was sponsored by the BRDG Bridge to Connect* organization.
The talk centered around “How VR and AR Immersive Technologies Might Transform Education in the 21 st Century.” Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are familiar phrases to technology wonks, but how they are used in education and specifically in medical education was intriguing. Luxonic Technologies further specializes in VR, AR and MR (Mixed Reality) applied to radiology.
Caecilia Gotama, the CEO and Founder of BRDG, had even higher expectations on the topic. Does the deployment of these high-powered bits and bytes of AR and VR of the digital world challenge the familiar boundaries of ethics, and in addition to medical ethics? This topic was extensively debated, dissected and generated more questions than answers, as is common with any new horizons of technology.
Dr. Wesolowski started his talk with the inequities of medical care and the limitations of the current system of education. World statistics indicate that over six trillion (that is 6,000,000,000,000) dollars are spent on health care but four billion people in the world do not have access to any health care. The UN wants to educate 30 million people to be trained in the healthcare field by 2030 but the
reality is likely to fall short of that number by a very wide margin. In other words, both medical delivery and medical education are falling behind. Furthermore, the traditional medical education is not scalable or adaptable. What works in California cannot be scaled to the needs of, say, Canada and let alone Cambodia. Other inequities are also built in the present system; trained personnel prefer urban areas that provide better professional opportunities and remuneration but
getting high-quality service in rural or isolated areas remains a challenge.
This is where Luxonic comes in.
Dr. Wesolowski admitted that some of his work and his products have embedded science fiction elements. To underscore the historical nature of such overlap, he cited Stanley Weinbaum’s iconic short story, Pygmalion’s Spectacles. In the story, the main character, Dan Burke, met a professor, Albert Ludwig, who invented a pair of goggles which enabled "a movie that gives one sight and sound [...] taste, smell, and touch. [...] You are in the story, you speak to the shadows (characters) and they reply, and instead of being on a screen, the story is all about you, and you are in it."
Luxonic’s products are not quite there, as taste and smell not realized just yet. But the company is focused on creating digital products using AR and VR technologies that are accessible, demanding low resources, interactive, efficient, effective and affordable. Wesolowski is confident that modestly priced (less than $300) products can facilitate training four times as fast, develop 275% confidence in the learned material, with nearly four-times-better knowledge retention after simply four months of e-learning.
The training of the radiologist is always interactive and collaborative. “The holographic products of Luxonic are integrated, accessible and collaborative,” said Wesolowski. As a result, 3-D radiologists trained using AR and VR in major urban institutions can “come” to the rural or underserved regions from a distance and interact with a patient virtually. The low-cost of the products make the delivery feasible and the problem of access could be readily solved for many remote locations.
While the application of holographic technology to radiology training is innovative, the reach of AR, VR and MR technologies are far and wide. For example, Microsoft’s HoloLens-2 headsets that made their debut at Mobile World Congress 2019, before shipping in November of 2019. Built on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 850 platform, HoloLens brings an MR experience by overlaying digital experience on the user’s real environment. It provides an effective tool for the examination and perception of the human body as an additional teaching tool in the constraints of cadaveric dissection. Furthermore, there are opportunities out there for young people to explore, experiment, and innovate using MR technologies with this Microsoft product. Applications exist in professional
training, remote learning, remote assistance and a whole lot more. The next gazillionaire is likely to be a VR, AR, or MR innovator. Why not?
During the breakout session, session chair Richard Woo shared his experience with introducing elementary school students programming languages, like Python. This early experience is likely to pay off in the future especially when we recognize the fact that 20 of his primary school kids passed the high school level Advanced Placement (AP) test in Computer Science. Wow! A lot of "Doogie Howsers" in the making. Or rather, there may be another Palmer Luckey who became an overnight zillionaire by selling Oculus may be lurking around. What is more interesting is that Luckey attended Long Beach State and did not complete his journalism degree. Mind you, not in predictable majors such as engineering or computer science, but in journalism. Richard Woo’s observation is that many high-end 3-D developers got their start in the computer gaming industry, an unlikely talent source to revolutionize medical education.
Key Questions Remain
With every new technology, many challenges in ethics as we know it emerge. There are many who would dismiss the American notion of privacy in our digital universe. When medical practice crosses political borders, privacy laws are not going to be the same. Who owns a 3-D avatar of the radiologist? Even more puzzling are the privacy and ownership issues of 3-D avatar of the patient that the doctor interacted with in a hospital setting. Other breakout sessions reported concern over risk, sustainability and intellectual property issues. With the introduction of the word “risk,” many lawyers must be salivating.
Nevertheless, it is safe to say, technologists have faced such challenges in the past and somehow made to work within the framework of normalcy, albeit clumsily.
*Dr. Wesolowski presented at a Technology & Ethics series hosted by BRDG Bridge to Connect, a nonprofit organization that provides wrap-around support to first-in-their-family college students pursuing a career in science and technology. The series is part of BRDG’s commitment to advancing discourse on the value of science and technology in promoting social good and ensuring well-rounded STEM leaders today and for our future.
Learn more at: www.bridge-to-connect.org.
Dr. Raman Menon Unnikrishnan is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering, and the former dean (2001-2016) of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at California State University Fullerton. Dr. Unnikrishnan is a Fellow of Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and a Life Member of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). He is a recipient of numerous professional and civic awards including a Distinguished Educator Award from ASEE and the 2015 ‘Educator of the Year’ award from Fullerton Chamber of Commerce.