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Project Convergence Brings Mixed Reality to Silicon Valley VA Hospital

The Department of Veterans Affairs is in the process of creating a technology program at a Palo Alto medical facility. The facility is the first 5G hospital of the VA.

Project Convergence refers to a private-public partnership, inclusive of Verizon-powered wireless 5G connectivity, the HoloLens 2 headset from Microsoft, and augmented reality (AR) visualization software. According to an account given by the VA National Center for Collaborative Healthcare Innovation director Thomas Osborne to FedScoop, the program is set to make science fiction come to life with AR images to facilitate a better understanding of medical conditions and processes.

The medical facility currently has three Microsoft HoloLens 2 headsets, a number that is set to rise to 10 in the near future, according to the VA. The new program is also set to use Azure cloud services.

Osborne stated that the new technology has broadened the spectrum of possibilities to previously unimaginable levels. As an example of this, a kidney disease-afflicted veteran will be able to use the Microsoft HoloLens 2 to observe her issue through her own eyes, as opposed to just hearing about it from her doctor. CT scan data and those from other imaging processes can be used to generate 3D pictures through the Medivis application. These are then transferred without delay using the 5G technology available on the HoloLens, said Osborne. According to Osborne, patients tend to be better when they have an understanding of why they are going through. He remarked that it was a type of medical literacy.

Project Convergence Brings Mixed Reality to VA hospital. Image source: nextgov

The HoloLens 2 headset, which resembles a pair of sunglasses and has a wrap-around-type top housing, can do more than showcase AR visualizations. It also offers mixed reality through hand motion tracking and facilitates interactions with the images showcased by the headset. This technology lets surgeons prepare better for getting under a patient’s skin by observing and feeling what sits inside, before going forward with an incision. Medical studies can use these mixed reality headsets to breathe life into their studies, venturing beyond conventional vocabulary, according to Osborne.

The collaborative project is currently present within the VA innovation units. The National Center for Collaborative Health Care Innovation is in charge of the partnership, falls under the “Innovation Ecosystem” initiative of the VA. Osborne is content with the rate at which the program is progressing, even with the bureaucracy involved. A contract was signed in January to consolidate the partnership. On February 4th, Verizon purchased its 5G signal. The VA followed closely with on-premises demonstrations of the headsets.

The VA has also remarked that it would present the technology’s demonstrations at a Florida conference in the near future. As of now, the technology tests are working with only non-personal information, in order to adhere to the health information regulations. Robert Wilkie, VA Secretary, said that it’s Palo Alto hospital is among the few 5G-enabled healthcare facilities across the globe. Osborne considers the program to have more applications shortly.

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