2023 has been a banner year for the field of augmented reality, and the creativity of innovators and developers this year has been impressive. They’ve been dreaming up new ways of improving the world around us, and then turning those dreams into concrete advancements that increase the safety, expression, beauty, and adventure in our daily lives. From the transformative ways artists are creating immersive masterpieces, to the precision and efficacy brought into operating rooms by AR in surgery, we see genius around us when we look around our young industry.
As the year comes to a close, we’d like to take a moment and appreciate the innovation we’ve achieved together. These five AR experiences showcase the incredible potential of augmented reality technology to enrich our lives and shift our perspectives.
SAVED: AR for Aviation Safety
The development of the Smoke Assured Vision Enhanced Display (SAVED) system represents a significant advancement in aviation safety technology. This system, a collaborative effort between L2 Aviation and Klatt Works, integrates augmented reality into an oxygen mask equipped with a heads-up display. The SAVED system is designed to assist pilots in navigating through smoke-filled cockpits, a scenario that poses significant challenges to visibility and aircraft control.
The high-tech oxygen mask features a built-in camera that captures the pilot's view, which is then displayed on the heads-up display. The system overlays critical flight information and visual references, so that pilots are able to land the aircraft safely even when smoke compromises their. The new system is currently undergoing certification with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and we expect it will substantially increase the odds of a safe landing in the event of an in-flight emergency.
eXpanding Surgical Safety
eXpanded eXistence recognized an opportunity to improve efficiency in the operating room, and saw that it could also increase safety of complex surgical procedures at the same time. The company has focused on improving the setup and workflow of surgical operations, which is crucial for both the success of the surgical team and the patient experience.
Their HoloOPS platform is a fusion of artificial intelligence and mixed reality. The AI/AR system learns from each surgery to further optimize its recommendations for the next procedure. It provides each surgical team with a highly efficient operating room setup, and in testing has proven to be highly effective. The work of eXpanded eXistence is a sign of a safer patient experience, showcasing the transformative potential of AR in healthcare.
More than 500 Young Learners Have an Opportunity to Build Their Own Virtual Experiences
In October of this year, the Air University K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Outreach Program inaugurated the first Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) Lab in Montgomery, Alabama, at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School. This labis equipped with ten workstations to offer students an immersive experience, along with tools and techniques to create and design their virtual experiences.
The lab's objective is to inspire and cultivate exceptional STEM talent among students by exposing them to Air Force resources and opportunities, particularly in underserved communities. More than 500 students from grades 9 to 12 are given the chance to explore their creativity and experience new learning methods in virtual environments. In 10 years, these teenagers could be leading VR/AR developers in the field - and we can’t wait to see what they do.
MRI Play Eases Kids' Anxiety
While MRI scans are perfectly safe, they can be pretty scary to young children. The big whirring machine might look like a monster or some futuristic brain-eating robot. This year, we saw a novel approach to alleviate kids’ anxiety prior to an MRI scan: a virtual/augmented reality play set!
This play set aims to reduce the need for general anesthesia during MRI scans, which is often required due to the noise and immobility required for the procedure. MRIs are a critical diagnostic tool in pediatric healthcare, offering high-quality images with lower radiation exposure compared to CT scans. But, the lengthy and noisy process, often reaching 80 decibels, can be particularly challenging for children.
Acknowledging the power of play in reducing medical anxiety, researchers developed a play set targeted at children aged 4 to 10 years. This play set requires adult assistance, and is helpful in addressing parental anxieties, too. It includes a flat-packed cardboard kit that assembles into a toy MRI scanner. With the help of an adult, a child inserts a smartphone into the “scanner,” and they can then use an augmented reality app to take on the role of a radiographer.
From there, the child can scan their favorite toy (or they can test the app on a toy that isn’t their favorite, just to be on the safe side). The app even generates scanning noises to mimic the MRI experience. To further show kids what their own experience will be like, the kit includes a virtual reality headset that guides the child through the hospital - culminating in a virtual entry into the MRI scanner.
The experience is enhanced with interactive games to familiarize children with different aspects of the MRI process, like checking in and staying still during the scan. Feedback from initial tests on 13 patients and their caregivers indicated that the play set effectively prepared and reduced anxiety in children during MRI scans. Children found that recalling aspects of the play set helped them stay calm and still during the actual procedure.
This innovative approach highlights the potential of virtual and augmented reality in transforming medical procedures and patient experiences, especially for children.
An Expansive Immersive Augmented Reality Art Trail
This past February, the city of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England unveiled an expansive augmented reality art trail. The exhibit was appropriately named “Look up!” and just one week after its launch 1,500 people had downloaded the app to do just that. The trail featured four buildings, each marked with a QR code. Scanning the code and pointing the phone toward the rooftops would reveal a giant animated creature looming over the city.
This integration of technology and art gave local artists a unique platform to showcase their work. The result was a dynamic and accessible art gallery, right in the heart of Sheffield.