In the case of i-Reality, I mentioned the potential to create virtual avatars the could become part of the healthcare interaction, as patients or as providers, in a way facilitating the reach of the physician to the patients or easing the access of patients to providers.
It just makes sense, to use any means to enhance our sensory systems, our perception, to allow us to make a digital, virtual object or action, seem or become much more realistic.
I frequently say that the potential of technology to affect Healthcare delivery and education, is only limited by our creativity and imagination to use the tools that we have.
In order to bring the virtual world the closest possible to the real one, we now have High-Definition visuals, 3D Immersive platforms (Oculus VR, Microsoft Hololens, Sansung Gear VR, Google card-board, etc.) and even the ability to enable us to visually integrate our bodies to the i-reality scene (LeapMotion, MagicLeap).
This is all amazing, but nevertheless, to make the experience complete, one very important factor is missing, the feeling of TOUCH, the tactile sensation, also called Haptics.
No interaction can be complete (unless is real), without that ability to feel with our hands what our brain is telling us that we are seeing. No matter how good the definition or how high the pixelation or 3D effects, if we can’t touch, then it seems to not exist.
As a surgeon, I’m very used to diagnose, among other variables, with my hands, by palpation. It’s a true art that we try to perfect during the many years of medical school and surgery residence.
I’m very fond of telemedicine, in fact I’m a pioneer and a strong proponent of its use in a mobile fashion. As a surgeon, one big limitation is the lack of haptics during the digital interactions. In Laparoscopic or Robotic assisted Surgery, the lack of haptics is sometimes a major limitation of these technologies.
So now, I imagine that I’m seeing a patient during a telemedicine encounter, hundreds of miles away. I have excellent video and audio quality, no lag or delay time, etc. In order to make a better diagnosis of a particular problem, I might need to palpate the abdomen, to “feel” how painful it is, whether it is soft or tense, distended, or whether the touch reveals “peritoneal signs“; I see a tumor or “bulge” on the skin, but I need to feel whether is bland (consistent with a lipoma), fluctuant (consistent with an abscess) or hard ( consistent with a tumor). This used to be impossible.
Now, I believe that we are in the right path to find a solution for this . I came upon a kickstarter campaign for Gloveone from NeuroDigital Technologies. I have not tried their device yet, but I’ve read and watched everything about it and, most importantly, have been dreaming about a device like this one for a few years already…and finally it is here.
I believe that this gadget will bring i-Reality to the next level, the last level for a while.
Another developing is the concept of #Haptoclone , which allows one to “touch” or have the tactile sensation of a virtual object, a Hologram.
In healthcare, it will allow us to get closer to our patients, to be able to touch them, to palpate their bodies, to integrate our hands in the diagnostic process…To truly FEEL and HEAL.
I can’t wait to see it happen.