Andreas Vesalius, a Flemish professor of anatomy at the University of Padua (1514-1646), published in 1536 a set of large anatomical woodcuts known as the Tabulae Six. This work has been extended and republished in 1543 as the famous De Humani Corporis Fabrica, which superseded any earlier works in the science and art of illustrating anatomy and became a standard document for many generations of physicians.
Vesalius’ work is based on pure empiric research from dissecting human cadavers, which allowed him to correct some of Aelius Galenus’ assumptions that were inherently part of the medical curriculum for hundreds of years. He closely collaborated with the Flemish artists Jan Stefan van Kalkar and also other important artists of his time to achieve high quality documentations of his dissections in terms of detail, appeal and instructional value.
Anatomists of the Renaissance were inspired by the cultural and social influences of their time and “dramatized, beautified, and moralized” their works (Michael Sappol. Dream Anatomy. National Institutes of Health, 2006) . Images were composed of upright, living bodies being sometimes in emotional state and positioned in natural landscapes. The intent of their image compositions was to prevent observers from thinking of the death and let them exclusively focus on the subject anatomy (Benjamin A. Rifkin, Michael J. Ackerman, and Judith Folkenberg. Human anatomy: depicting the body from the Renaissance to today. London : Thames & Hudson, 2006.). Illustrations were arranged systematically to discover the anatomy from the outer skin layer to the deep seated organs without losing the link to the whole body.
Vesalius issued along with the De Humani Corporis Fabrica a flap system, the Epitome, consisting of prints from large woodcuts that could be used to successively cover and uncover layers of the body. Exact overlay of gradually augmented flaps allowed the reader to visually dissect the body and better understand its topology. Figures primarily showing the muscles of the body with peeled off skin were classified as écorchés. The écorchés, impressively documented the intent of obscuring the death and presenting the anatomy within a living context. Many écorchés have been designed as spreading the skin with their own hands to reveal the view onto their viscera.
Augmented Reality tries to follow the artful approaches of Andreas Vesalius and presents anatomy right at the human living bodies. Here, studying organs within the context of a real human body is no longer related to traumatic views into an injured patient undergoing surgery or a dead person being dissected. Augmented Reality has the power to make views into the body as natural as studying any other complex system and directs the foucs of interest on the subject.
In October 2013, I met Dan Cui of the company Vuzix at the InsideAR event in Munich to talk about their current product portfolio. According to Dan, there are four head worn devices available at the moment that allow for Augmented Reality views, i.e. virtual 3D objects can be registered and displayed in the 3D environment of the user. These devices are the Wrap 1200DXAR, the Star 1200XLD, the M2000 and the M100.
With respect to their usage for enhancing medical workflows, Dan sais “applications that deal with pre, intra and post surgical procedures seem to be the most welcome by the medical teams. This includes patient check list data, procedural checks and peer-to-peer video/audio communications.”
But also “1st responder and other trauma apps are other areas of high interest by the medical market”. On stage in his talk at InsideAR Dan added patient medical history, patient’s vital data as well as symptom identification and documentation to the list of application domains in the medical field that Vuzix has in mind to drive the process of designing their displays.
Evena Medical has released a head worn device to see through the skin and identify vessel structures. According to the company, the product called “Eyes-On™” is the first wearable device for hands free, real time vascular imaging. The main user type of the device will be nurses to use it right at the bed side to access veins in a more precise and direct way without multiple tries.
Multi-Spectral Imaging, a patented technology developed by Evena, allows for looking deep into the skin. Mounted cameras record the user’s field of view as images and videos. “Eyes-On” can then be connected to remote computers with multiple protocols to exchange the data.
Bernhard Preim and Charl Botha have released their second edition of the book “Visual Computing for Medicine” (see also http://medvisbook.com/). Big headlines are Acquisition, Analysis, and Interpretation of Medical Volume Data, Visualization and Exploration of Medical Volume Data, Advanced Medical Visualization Techniques, Visualization of High-Dimensional Medical Image Data, Treatment planning, guidance and training. Of course the book also covers various approaches in Medical Augmented Reality.
Bernhard Preim says: “The new edition of the book “Visual Computing in Medicine” has a broader scope and involves new chapters, e.g., on human computer interaction related to medical image data, biomedical simulations, projection-based techniques and applications in ENT surgery. The other chapters are carefully updated and provide a link to the current research. In particular, intraoperative visualization, computer-assisted medical education, imaging technologies and virtual endoscopy have been widely extended. For a faster reading of more basic stuff, “advanced topics” are highlighted and may be skipped in a first reading. In addition to the printed book, five online chapters are available freely at the book website maintained by the authors http://medvisbook.com/.”