Thursday, May 19, 2011

AnatOnMe projects patients' insides onto their outsides

A team at Microsoft's research wing has developed a working prototype of a system that may help to encourage physical injury sufferers to do their exercises by giving them a clearer understanding of what's going on.

A therapist would use the device to project a series of graphics of underlying bone, muscle tissue, tendons or nerves directly onto the body of a patient to help explain the nature of the injury and prescribe effective treatment.

The device can also take photos during a consultation, which can be subsequently reviewed or printed out as a memory aid for the patient.

It is estimated that up to half of patients undergoing physical therapy for chronic conditions fail to comply with the recommended therapies, and effective communication between patient and practitioner is seen as a major influence for compliance with prescribed exercise regimens.

The team of Amy K. Karlson and Daniel Wigdor from Microsoft Research, and PhD student intern Tao Ni from Virginia Tech's Department of Computer Science, has created a system that could help to enhance such a therapist-patient information exchange.

The AnatOnMe projection-based handheld prototype is made up of two parts. The first consists of an Optoma PK102 pico projector, a Microsoft LifeCam digital webcam and a FireFly MV USB near-infrared camera.

The second is a modified Logitech R400 laser pointer which has had its red laser diode replaced by an IR laser diode, and some control buttons added. Both parts are connected to a laptop for processing.

The researchers put together a series of annotated graphic collections representing six injury types using stock graphics, three upper body and three lower body injuries that often require physical therapy.

Using this library, the therapist can project images onto a patient's body, a mannequin or a wall, to help the patient better understand an injury through 3D visualization of the problem and then to detail a recommended course of treatment.

Rather than creating a complicated automated system to line up the image with the area of injury, the prototype relies on the therapist to match the two by line of sight.

As the therapist gives exercise instruction, the camera could be used to photograph the patient performing the recommended exercises, and these photos could be compiled into an instruction sheet and printed off for the patient to take away.

It is hoped that giving patients a virtual view inside an affected area will encourage them to keep up their exercises.

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