Lack of adequate ultrasound training and accessibility is a serious problem in many low and middle income countries across South America, Africa, and Asia. In a 2015 study from the University of Washington, 45 percent of healthcare providers surveyed in those continents reported ultrasound equipment shortages, and 60 percent claimed sonography training was insufficient. Fortunately, scientists at General Electric Global Research are working to improve ultrasound education and technical practices with an innovative augmented reality (AR) system called Vscan that helps clinicians accurately identify specific organs with artificial intelligence algorithms.
“We are currently testing out the feasibility of integrating AR, AI and probe tracking in a single unified system and understanding how or if it can improve the efficiency of the ultrasound technician (especially for less skilled technicians) and reduce the errors in ultrasound imaging,” said Ratnadeep Paul, lead engineer for augmented and virtual reality at GE Global Research.
In conjunction with Microsoft HoloLens glasses, clinicians wave a sonogram wand over a dummy to directly visualize the exact locations of organs. The Vscan guides trainees to pinpoint different parts of the body so that they can get accurate scan images. Although researchers are still perfecting the device, they’re hoping the technology can be eventually used on tablets and smartphones. They are also launching a pregnant dummy so that clinicians can get more realistic experience administering ultrasounds. Once the device is on the market, the goal is that healthcare workers will be able to use it on live patients.