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Bringing EMMR to life – the technology journey
Enhanced Medical Mixed Reality technology (EMMR) is about to transform the way we deliver aged care, allowing older Australians to continue to live at home, even if their health deteriorates.
At Silver Chain, we’ve been working with Saab Australia to develop EMMR in the form of a new software interface that can be used with the HoloLens augmented reality headset to ‘holoport’ clinicians into patients’ homes.
The Microsoft HoloLens seemed a natural fit for our mission to deliver health and aged care services to people in their own homes. The great advantage it offered was the new ‘mixed reality’ technology – merging the real and virtual worlds.
Mixed reality is different from virtual reality, which is incredibly immersive. With virtual reality, you’re wearing a headset you can’t see through – it really is like you’re in a different world to anyone else. That didn’t work for our care models. It created a real barrier between our carers and the client.
Whereas mixed reality is about overlaying the real world with additional information. In this case, we saw exciting potential to be able to augment the home care environment with data and information visualisations.
Importantly, the HoloLens headset doesn’t disrupt your experience of the world like virtual reality goggles. It doesn’t compromise the engagement between our medical staff and clients. Instead, it gave us the ability to create a space where physical and holographic digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.
How we brought EMMR to life
Microsoft immediately grasped the opportunity we saw with the HoloLens, and invited us to their head office in the US to flesh out how the technology could work in our world. We first worked with Microsoft to storyboard the proposed solution, then we joined forces with Saab Australia.
Saab Australia has already invested heavily in mixed reality technology as a future game changer in a wide range of domains. Saab was the first Microsoft HoloLens Agency Partner in the Asia Pacific. Their initial entry into mixed reality was The Sandbox, a 3D visualisation tool for the Royal Australian Air Force.
Image: Saab Australia's visualisation tool, The Sandbox
Working closely with Saab’s technologists, the Silver Chain IT team, including our solutions architect and security administrators, worked on ideating a solution, using scenarios to test the concept. The team is intrinsically involved in all elements of development, integration, security and testing.
Bleeding-edge technology offers challenges and learnings
When you’re creating something new, it’s always an intrepid path through the development stage. The really important thing is to embrace continuous learning and improvement. You have to work around the fact that today’s technology has its limitations – that it will be different in a years’ time. We’ll keep building on EMMR as the technology matures to make it better and better for the end user.
The development of EMMR will also be supported by ever-increasing computer processing speeds, and the NBN rollout and 5G networks. This digital infrastructure will improve bandwidth and allow us to use EMMR live in new locations.
And this is what excites me the most about EMMR – being able to bring new services to people so that they can be treated in their own homes. We see this technology as a major enabler of Australia’s first virtual hospital.