Newswise — Texas State University researchers, in collaboration with ArchieMD, a leading provider of visually-based health science education, are developing an innovative augmented reality medical training technology for the United States Army through the U.S. Department of Defense.
Texas State's Alex Zakhidov, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics, is overseeing a team of six on the project, including post-doctoral researcher Chris Manspeaker, graduate students Eric Welch, Kevin Lyon and Garrett Merrion, and undergraduate students Zachary Rangel and Lauren Trombley. ArchieMD was awarded a two-year, $1 million grant from the Army for the project, of which Zakhidov's group has received approximately $500,000 to develop the hardware component.
"Typically, if you or I get injured, within 15 minutes we're in a hospital," Zakhidov explained. "But soldiers on a mission, involved in an ongoing fight, sometimes they need to wait for several days before they can get treated by a doctor. By that time, unfortunately, the wound aggravates. It becomes even worse."
To train army physicians to treat such traumatic wounds that progress over time, the Texas State team is developing a thin, flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) adhesive display that can be embedded in a moulage—that is, a simulated, prosthetic wound—capable of interacting wirelessly with a smart phone app. Viewed through the app, the wound can evolve, presenting symptoms of infection or other aggravating factors, requiring the physician in training to accurately decide on the proper course of treatment for the wound at that point in time.
"This is not a typical wound. It'd be severe trauma, like a gunshot. The wound's appearance changes over time as the situation aggravates," Zakhidov said. "The trainee applies some treatment to help the wound, antibiotics for example, and the display will show how the wound will heal out.
"It will show the progression: This is how it formed, how it aggravates, and—if the proper treatment is applied—how it heals," he said. "Of course, there are several treatment options, and the trainee has to select the right one. The information on the display will help them better understand what is happening."
Zakhidov's team has completed work on a small, proof-of-concept prototype and is currently focused on scalability, reliability and performance. The OLED must be enlarged while retaining its flexibility so that it can accommodate the contours of the human body as it simulates life-size injuries. Improved performance from the device driver will result in better framerates and increased image resolution.