S&R Blog


No longer a fantasy. Healthcare enters the realm of augmented reality.
September 1, 2009, 5:49 pm
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With the advent of mobile augmented reality apps and developers like Layar, what was once just a pipe dream in the minds of marketers just a few months ago is now a wide open canvas for innovation.  Recently, we discussed how healthcare could benefit immensely from the new augmented reality technology that was being developed for Android and the iPhone. And it looks like that day has arrived, according to a new interview Mobile Health News had with the developers of  Layar about new healthcare aps being developed for their augmented reality platform. Some of the key exchanges are below.

Are there any healthcare or related Layars currently available?

In the beginning, we launched in Holland and one of our original launch partners was Zekur.nl, which is a local healthcare provider. They have a specific health insurance offering, which is only available over the Internet and it is cheap because they only contract out their healthcare services to specific providers. So you can only go to “that” chiropractor and not the other one. In order to facilitate this and give their patients insights into which provider they can go to — they built one of the first Layars with us to point people to where they can go. This company is also very young so they needed the marketing push this platform would give them. The various healthcare providers covered by their insurance are what you can find [if you toggle] their Layar. That’s one of the first healthcare use cases.

Secondly, we have a general hospital Layar in Japan that enables users to point their phone in any direction and it shows them on their camera screen the closest hospitals or emergency rooms in that direction. This is like a healthcare directory service. Also, in Japan and in Holland there is a Layar that allows users to find the nearest AED, [which is an “automated external defibrillator” — a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the potentially life threatening cardiac arrhythmias of ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia in a patient, and is able to treat them through defibrillation.] These are machines in public places that people can use on people who have heart attacks.

OK, I can see that service as being potentially useful — what’s next? Beyond just finding things through your mobile camera — how else can this platform better health or wellbeing? What other opportunities do you see?

Well, you know that I am a cancer survivor, right? So for me that is a good subject always and I know the Livestrong Foundation has a new campaign where you can make what’s called a Dedication Page. I made a Dedication Page for my wife, who was great to me and I express that through my Dedication Page. It is a great way to really capture that and to make other people aware of what people do in that circumstance. Those pages also include location information, so that could make a great Layar, where you could go to a Livestrong Dedication Layar and see, literally, how much “cancer” is all around you. I mean that in a good way — the Layar could make people aware of how much of an impact something like cancer has. Maybe as a part of that Layar you could make a donation or send flowers to someone, but really just to raise awareness and help people lend support, this Layar would be very effective. I didn’t know how much there was out there before I got sick. It’s good to put that information out there because for those who have it can know that they are not alone. I have emailed them, but I haven’t heard back yet.

Another way is for an epidemic type thing, which it may or may not be true for the H1N1, but you could use Layar to pinpoint where cases of [the H1N1 swine flue have been diagnosed], those may be areas that you might want to avoid.

One of the biggest challenges, especially in healthcare, is knowing where to go once you are in the hospital. This is more of a future application — we are not doing this yet — but say, you have an appointment with your specialist: Those are very expensive appointments so you need to make sure people know how to get there. Layar could point you to which door you should take to get you to the place you need to be in. This is not possible now, but I see it as a common use case for the future.

Read the full interview here.

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