The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library

Augmented Reality

Magic Mirror Augmented Reality Display

A student at Johns Hopkins University uses the Magic Mirror augmented reality system for anatomical study.

While digital surrogates are effective tools, many students still prefer learning anatomy with a real body. Wet specimens and human cadavers are costly to obtain, but they are not always necessary as technology advances. The use of augmented reality (AR)  is quickly taking hold in the classroom, as well as the doctor’s office, to aid medical students and patients alike.

Utilizing accessible technologies, such as Microsoft Kinect for the XBox 360 or Google Glass, AR is able to give students and doctors the ability to look "inside" patients. Projecting images of anatomical structures and systems onto a living person allows for students to have an immediate, contextualized experience of human anatomy. Patients benefit from this technology as well, as they can “see” their own injuries or maladies, and how they might be treated.

Current AR technology, such as the Magic Mirror System, developed by Technische Universität München, educates medical students using gesture-based interaction. The system enables students to project virtual objects onto the real world. This allows different anatomical systems (skeletal, cardiovascular, digestive, muscular, etc.) to appear on a student’s own body, providing a more comprehensive understanding of anatomical structures.

Augmented reality allows medical professionals to treat patients in a holistic fashion.  Medical students and physicians can see maladies while they listen to a patient describe their ailment, incorporating different methods of diagnosis and assessment in a single visit.