Army medics eye wearable workstation

June 16, 2003

A mobile medical system could enable military surgical personnel and medics to access and transmit critical medical data via a head-worn display, wearable computer, and wireless network. The first prototype is due by the end of this year, according to a

A mobile medical system could enable military surgical personnel and medics to access and transmit critical medical data via a head-worn display, wearable computer, and wireless network. The first prototype is due by the end of this year, according to a U.S. Army contract awarded last month to Microvision.

The contract is for development of technology that ultimately results in a battlefield-deployable product called Augmented Vision Display, which is initially projected to be used by Army medics.

When deployed, the system will likely consist of a wearable computer with wireless LAN connectivity, various inputs for sensors and diagnostic equipment, and Microvision's Nomad Augmented Vision Display, a head-worn, see-through, sunlight-readable display.

"Medics will have their usual two-eye situational awareness in addition to real-time patient vital signs and information displayed at their point of task - tending to an injured soldier, for example," said Tom Sanko, Microvision's vice president of marketing.

The system will also enable the medics to keep their hands free and attention focused on their patients and to be completely mobile - an important attribute in a battlefield environment.

One configuration has an integral Web camera and microphone/earphone built into the headset, so that a remote trauma surgeon can assist the medic in diagnosis and treatment.

"The surgeon will also be able to draw on the screen, the way TV sports commentators diagram football plays," Sanko said.

Diagnostic images can also be displayed in the system, just as they can be displayed on workstations.

"Our display is currently monochrome red, but we have other capability such as full color or other monochrome colors and sufficient gray shades for diagnosis," Sanko said.

In the short term, the display won't be used for diagnosis, but rather for guidance and landmark identification, he said.

Later this year, the firm plans to launch a commercial product for medical, aviation, and industrial applications similar to the military hardware. It will be smaller, lighter, and more ergonomically friendly, however.

"We believe that physicians can benefit from an augmented vision display," Sanko said. "We are working with several medical device manufacturers to incorporate this technology into their systems."