It could be argued that Apple does not make new things, it just takes things others have invented and then makes them better than anyone else does. IMB created Windows, Apple created the Mac. IBM created the first smartphone, and Apple created the iPhone. In 1968, Ivan Southerland invented the first VR and AR headsets. With the 2017 release of ARKit, Apple stakes claim to “the largest AR platform in the world.”
It is on this platform of AR-equipped iPhones and iPads that the next generation of healthcare applications might be developed. And where else? With more than 1.4 billion mobile devices in the field, even Google cannot compete with Apple for market access. With 1,000 Apple engineers in Israel devoted solely to AR technology, Google may find equal difficulty churning out more-advanced AR wizardry.
To be clear, AR demonstrated its value to the healthcare industry long before the ARkit development platform was released. The reason ARKit is worth getting excited about is that it provides core AR programming features that make existing healthcare AR applications better, while making new ones possible.
We will now examine five ways ARKit will empower the development of AR applications that save the lives of some, while helping others to live healthier lives.
1. Healthcare Education
AR technology is already being used to enhance the educational experience for medical students. A number of applications exists that provide anatomical overlays of the human body, 3D anatomical models, and virtual text books. The interactive nature of AR has prompted medical schools around the globe to adopt AR technology for the classroom.
The core programming features of ARKit enable educational applications to be more interactive and more detailed than those developed without ARKit features. Here are a few ways the ARKit framework can be used to create powerful educational applications for the healthcare industry:
- Plane detection enables apps to place virtual 3D anatomical models directly on students’ desks, providing a richer and more interactive learning experience than photographs or videos can offer.
- Using Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO), educational applications can allow students to view 3D models interactively, from any angle and from any distance.
- By estimate ambient lighting, 3D models rendered in virtual space are presented at proper brightness for optimum viewing quality.
The training of our next generation of physicians calls for the best tools available. Among those tools are educational applications developed with ARKit.
2. Vision Diagnostics
It should stand to reason that AR would find its way into the eyecare industry. After all, AR is all about helping us to see things, even if those things are not really there. Although AR is already being utilized for treatment of certain eye disorders, ARKit brings some options to the table that can help even more.
While you may think it odd that your optometrist would ask you to look into an iPad or iPhone during your next eye exam, don’t rule out the possibility. The Apple platform is, no doubt, not a substitute for precision vision-diagnostic equipment, but AR can provide some valuable preliminary testing data. It is up to developers to decide how to best implement each of the following applications, but it is not difficult to imagine their usefulness.
- Detecting focusing ability
- Peripheral vision testing
- Assessing proper eye alignment
AR vision diagnostics is not just about looking into a device display. Through the power of ARKit, and with the built-in camera features of Apple’s latest devices, AR vision applications can look back, assessing the movement, position, and shape of the eyeball — information that can be used to help us maintain good eye health so we can continue using our Apple devices.
3. Dental Care
Dental care provides an excellent opportunity for ARKit to show its stuff. And we don’t just mean using it to provide 3D modeling to help patients and dentists select the best plan of action before work begins. The processing power of the iPhone 8 and iPad 2017 can provide image processing that rivals current dental imaging software.
- Accurate measurement capabilities, and the ability to auto-size models, allows dental patients a preview of how dentures or implants will appear in their mouths.
- Orthodontist can show patients ultra-realistic images of what their smile will look like following teeth whitening or the application of braces.
- Using point cloud technology, it is entirely feasible that an AR app could process image details to indicate certain dental maladies.
Of course, the iPad and iPhone lend themselves to providing a font-only view of the patient’s teeth, but a detachable scanner for full-mouth imaging could well be the cause for the next AR startup.
By utilizing the ARFrame rawFeaturePoints property, healthcare apps can create point clouds of tumors, organs, tissues, or bone structures. Not only can solid 3D virtual models be constructed from the point cloud, but complex algorithms can extrapolate valuable data from the point cloud that can be used to identify the nature of anomalous tissue.
Here are a few ways we expect to see ARKit apps making surgeries easier, faster, and safer in the near future:
- Tumor identification
- Reconstructive procedure planning.
- Blood flow visualizations.
While the iPhone and iPad can certainly be valuable tools within the operating room, Apple’s anticipated AR glasses will make even more surgical AR apps possible.
5. Medical Data Access
ARKit enables applications to know exactly where an Apple device is in 3D space. Couple that with the outrageously powerful A10X Fusion processor for the iPad 2017— and A11 processor for the iPhone 8, and you have a perfect 3D healthcare database platform.
To understand the concept behind the 3-dimensional database, simply imagine a stack of spreadsheets floating in the air in front of you. Now imagine taking your iPhone or iPad and moving the device through the stack until you reach the spreadsheet you desire. Now imagine that there are stacks of spreadsheets floating the the air all around you, which you can select and view simply by moving your device in the direction of the records you wish to view. This is how the 3D virtual database will work, once someone decides to build one.
The ability to rapidly search through reams of medical data can impact the healthcare industry across the board. Here are just a few of the ways it will do so:
- Medical Billing departments will have rapid access to patient billing records.
- Physicians will be able to pull up patient records right in front of the patient, rather than having to go to a computer.
- Pharmacists will be able to quickly search virtual 3D databases for drug interactions and generic substitutions.
Virtual databases are sure to be a reality in the very near future, making medical data more easily accessible than is possible with computers. Who knows, they may even reduce the time we have to wait in the doctor’s lobby.
ARKit is too new for even Apple to grasp its full potential in the marketplace. This much we know: AR will soon become as much a part of the medical industry as are stethoscopes and lab coats. AR has, in fact, already made inroads into the medical profession, but ARKit brings the power of AR right into the corner doctor’s office through the world’s largest AR platform.
Capitalizing on the emerging healthcare AR market will require three ingredients:
- An idea
If you have an idea for an AR application for the healthcare industry, AppReal-VR has the last two ingredients covered. We are experts at both AR and VR technology, and mobile app development. Our world-class development teams push the technology envelope on every project. With six R&D labs across Europe, we are well-positioned to develop your next AR application.
Why not contact us today for a no-cost consultation?