Holoport technology explored for remote healthcare
August 17, 2022
LONDON, Ont. – While a number of hospitals and physicians have moved to virtual communication in recent years due to the pandemic, a team of researchers at London Ontario’s Western University have achieved a sci-fi-level feat of conducting two-way hologram teleportation.
They call it holoport, and it’s a way for people to meet anywhere, even in outer space, using a hologram version of themselves that is three-dimensionally interactive. The technology is being explored as a way to provide long-distance healthcare solutions.
“The technology is surprisingly simple,” said Dr. Adam Sirek (pictured), an adjunct professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, as well as a co-founder of Leap Biosystems. “It’s a headset and a 3D scanning camera that creates a holographic image of yourself and moves it to wherever the receiver is, anywhere in the world.”
Sirek’s company partnered with Aexa in Houston in April to demonstrate a two-way holoport to the International Space Station. The team demonstrated the holoport, connecting with Nathan Ream of Aexa Aerospace, who was in Huntsville, Alabama.
“We brought that space-proven technology here to Western so that our summer students could be working on it to push the boundaries for Canadian healthcare,” said Sirek.
The project is a joint collaboration between engineering and medical students at Western, including Sirek and Ana Luisa Trjos who are primary investigators, along with engineering student Jocelyn Whittal and medical student Adam Levchuk.
Whittal was holoported from Western’s Interdisciplinary Research Building to Huntsville, Alabama and then to Spain, where Fernando De La Pena Llaca of Aexa was stationed. Whittal is researching the haptic opportunities for the technology, or the ability to incorporate touching and feeling in the 3D holographic space.
“In space, they’re very far away, and they don’t always send a doctor up with them. So being able to touch them and do a full medical exam would be amazing and making sure that they are okay, as well as in rural communities to avoid evacuations,” she said.
Whittal said the cost of medical evacuations from remote areas could cost upwards of $200,000, and if a doctor was able to perform an assessment in the holographic space, a more informed response or course of treatment could be determined.
Levchuk performed a physical exam on Ream using the holoport technology, conducting a shoulder examination.
“As opposed to doing this on Zoom, where he’d be small on a screen, he was a full-sized human hologram right in front of me,” he said. “There’s 3D motion to this hologram as opposed to a 2D on a Zoom call. It just feels a little bit more personal being in the same space as a hologram as opposed to a computer image.”
He says his next steps are to validate how well the shoulder examination went and hopes to be able to perform similar assessments with astronauts in space.
While Sirek admits that there are still some bugs to iron out and improvements to be made, they’ve proven the technology works and that it could provide the building blocks for opportunities beyond their target application of healthcare.
“We’ve got an interdisciplinary summer internship where we can have undergraduate students playing with this cutting-edge tech that can expand their boundaries and do things that they never thought they’d be doing in the undergraduate,” said Sirek.
“It’s exciting, it’s fantastic, and hopefully, this will inspire the next generation of people to come up with even better technology than this.”
Source: CBC News