Augmented, virtual reality can help veterinarians see more

Published on September 12, 2018
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3D imaging modelScott Birch thinks augmented reality can help veterinarians see more within their patients.

Birch is the CEO of Pixelbeaker, through which he creates 3D models and reconstructions for medical use. In a series of lectures at AVMA Convention 2018, July 13-17 in Denver, he described the types of software and hardware systems veterinarians can use to translate data obtained through digital imaging into 3D models, including those useful in augmented and virtual reality systems.

Veterinarians using such technology can look past the skin and ribs of a patient to see close-up views of heart defects, manually reorient the views to get a better sense of the problem, and collect precise measurements.

They can explore in depth the vascularization within a dog's leg. And veterinarians and students can use shared models to print education-use bones. He also noted that 3D model libraries, such as A360 and Sketchfab, allow clinicians and clients to access high-resolution patient-specific models from anywhere.

But most of the medical-use software developed so far has been for human application.

"I wish there were more applications for veterinary medicine that I could show," he said. "They just don't exist yet."

Birch noted that such systems can be expensive. A zSpace workstation that uses a specialized screen, stylus, and eyeglasses to make models appear to float in front of the user, costs about $6,000, he said. A Microsoft HoloLens commercial suite costs about $5,000, although a developer edition is $3,000.

Birch thinks those technologies, through which people can see models while still seeing the world around them—unlike through the opaque eyeglasses of virtual reality systems—will be useful for veterinary medicine. And he expects veterinarians could develop hundreds more applications.

Related JAVMA content:

3-D printing makes its way to veterinary medicine (July 1, 2014)