Device Gives Doctors and Patients X-Ray Vision (Kind Of)

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X-ray vision has long been a popular trope of science fiction and comic books. Many a superhero has summoned the unique power to squint their way to fame by glaring through walls.

Arguably superheroes in their own right, physical therapists could soon be using a device, called AnatOnMe, that gives them the powr to see beneath a patient's skin. While it's not exactly X-ray vision, the Microsoft researchers who developed the technique hope its valiant power of persuasion will motivate patients to keep up with their therapies.

The researchers say that improving patient compliance with medical treatments, such as self-administration of drugs and exercises, is essential to a successful healing process.

"Despite this, compliance remains an elusive goal. For example, studies have placed the rate of non-compliance with courses of treatment for chronic conditions at between 30 percent and 50 percent," states a paper written by Microsoft researchers Tao Ni, Amy Karlson and Daniel Wigdor.

Therefore they "developed an integrated solution for seeking medical information, photo and video capture of disease status and treatment plans for documentation, and a shared, interactive display to support patient education."

AnatOnMe projects an image of underlying bone structure, muscle tissue, tendons, or nerves onto the skin, giving patients a better understanding of their injury and what measures they need to take to help the healing process.

The prototype device comes in two parts. The first consists of a handheld projector, an digital camera and an infrared camera. The second part contains a laser pointer and control buttons.

Rather than using a complicated autocorrection system to map the image of the internal injury onto the patient's skin, the prototype draws from a cache stock photos used to show one of six types of injury. Therapists simply point the projector and line it up by eye. To select options, therapists use the laser pointer, which is detected by the infrared camera.

Doctors or therapists can also use AnatOnMe to project images onto a wall.

The paper and AnatOnMe were presented this week in Vancouver at CHI 2011, the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.