For Immediate Release February 05, 2016


Researchers Explore the Power of Virtual and Augmented Reality

Researchers from the University of Maryland's Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) in College Park and the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) in Baltimore have teamed up with physicians at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center to explore how virtual and augmented reality may revolutionize how doctors practice in the future.

At the Augmentarium, a unique immersive laboratory on the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) campus, world-class experts in computer science and trauma medicine are working together to develop technology that would allow surgeons to see details like blood type or the exact location of an aneurysm while they operate. Augmented reality – where digital objects are embedded in a physical real world – is just one of the many tools being tested in this unique partnership that exemplifies how the MPower initiative – established to foster collaboration between the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and UMCP – is working to impact the next generation of innovators.

Innovators like UMIACS computer scientist Sujal Bista, who filmed surgeries at Shock Trauma using cameras that present multiple viewpoints. During playback, viewers can change perspective and see around objects in the scene, like doctors' hands or medical equipment.

"Virtual reality will allow us a way to teach what I call spinning plates—paying attention to several things at once and not losing track of any of them," said Dr. Sarah Murthi, a trauma surgeon at Shock Trauma and clinical associate professor at UMSOM. "Medical students and young trainees have little or no prior exposure to the chaos of trauma medicine. To immerse them in various virtual-reality scenarios in advance could lessen the initial shock and better prepare them for the real thing."

Amitabh Varshney, computer science professor, UMIACS director and lead investigator for the project, added, "We're working on building virtual environments in which multiple students and teachers are immersed concurrently and can view the reconstructions in any environment with a shared perspective."

The next step, which Varshney cautions is still many years away, will introduce virtual and augmented reality into clinical practice.

Surgeons could practice a particularly difficult surgery in advance and then during surgery, they could be guided by infor­mation and imagery projected on see-through goggles, perhaps listing the steps or showing systems in the body so they never have to take their eyes off of what's in front of them.

"Augmented reality has the potential to fundamentally change how we train physicians as well as how we operate," said Dr. Murthi. "Shock Trauma has always been a pioneer for new trauma techniques. This is just one more way we are leading the pack."

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