EDITORIAL

Welcome to the Future


Twenty years later, all of the items in this picture fit in your pocket … on your smart phone.
H ow will you know when you’re in the future? When everything fits in your pocket, or better yet, when everything you need is built in!

What can be said about the prospects for advanced health?

Real-Time Diagnostics

Consider the iKnife … which already exists. With the iKnife, you simply make a non-invasive electrical current incision with minimal blood-loss. The resulting vaporized smoke is analyzed by a mass spectrometer to detect the chemicals in the biological sample. The result is identification of, for example, whether the tissue is malignant. This Jedi knife can significantly reduce the length of procedures.

Medical Tricorders

The idea of the tricorder from Star Trek has been around for decades and we still don’t have it. Yet with the completion of the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize competition, it may be coming soon. This will lead to the development of a device that can diagnose any disease and give individuals more choices in their own health.

Such devices can not only measures your body temperature, but also traces ECG, measures pulse rate and rhythm, oxygen saturation, systolic blood pressure, physical activity and sleep, completely transforming the notion of healthcare. A grand prize for users is not having to wait for the verdict of medical professionals, but the ability to control your own health program.

Genomics

Since the conclusion of the Human Genome Project (Craig Venter vs the U.S. government)—which aimed at the complete mapping and understanding of the human genome—the era of personalized medicine in which everyone gets customized therapy with customized dosages has been envisioned. By the way, the competition was won by Venter’s company ­Celera at only 10% of the government’s expenditure.

Personal genomics has found hundreds of evidence-based applications. Moving along this path, there are more and more opportunities for using DNA analysis at the patient’s bedside, which will help tremendously for prescribing drugs. And so much more. Genomics and genetics will provide amazing medical tools to prevent and cure diseases. Its use will be widespread.

Artificial Intelligence

We know about IBM’s Watson machine intelligence, which has moved on from its Jeopardy TV knowledge-game victory to master medicine. Watson is already assisting physicians in everyday medical decision-making, giving proper diagnosis after doctors were stumped in at least several instances.

While a physician is limited to a few papers—maybe a few dozens papers with digital solutions—Watson has the capacity to read 40 million documents in 15 seconds and to suggest the most fitting therapies.

There are other AIs such as Atomwise which can predict more ably which potential medicines will work, and which won’t. Then there’s Google Deepmind Health which can mine the data of medical records in order to provide better and faster health services. Although in its initial phase, Deepmind Health usage at present is accelerating, especially since partnering with the British hospital Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to improve eye treatment.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, GPS data, or other information.

Then there is mediated reality, a related general concept, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. These technologies function by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. Dissimilarity, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one. Augmentation is presented in real time and in semantic context with environmental elements, such as sports scores on TV during a match.

With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g., adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulable.

Information about the environment and its objects is superimposed on the real world. This information can be either virtual or real, e.g. seeing other real sensed or measured information such as electromagnetic radio waves overlaid in exact alignment with where they actually are in space.

AR brings out the components of the digital world into a person’s perceived real world. One example is an AR Helmet for construction workers which displays information about the construction sites. The first functional AR systems that provided immersive mixed reality experiences for users were invented in the early 1990s, starting with the Virtual Fixtures system developed at the U.S. Air Force's Armstrong Labs in 1992.

Augmented Reality has been transforming medicine and healthcare sectors significantly. Right from improving medical training to making pharmacy-benefit management more effective, this technology is all set to make a significant impact in these sectors for years to come. Experts suggest augmented reality is all set to rule the future.

When it comes to medicine and healthcare, AR can not only help save lives, it can also help healthcare organizations make their existing processes more precise and efficient.

In recent years, researchers have been using this technology for helping doctors conduct surgeries more effectively, improving fitness, teaching complex subjects to medical students, and much more.

And these future medical aids name only a few of the many to come.

Live long and prosper,

Will Block

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