One of the greatest health scourges of this country or any one isn’t a bacterium, virus, or disease at all. Rather, it’s a behavior–or, to put a finer point on it, a lack of a behavior. “Noncompliance”–it’s a word that hovers over any hospital or clinic, a word that helps doctors shrug off their patients’ slow or non-existent convalescence. They didn’t take their meds; they didn’t do their exercises. They were noncompliant.
Microsoft thinks it has a solution that will help boost the compliance, and therefore the health, of patients. Here’s the theorizing behind their new tool, the awkwardly (but also cleverly) named AnatOnMe. The things that go wrong inside our body are, well, inside our body–we can’t see them, so what’s really going on down there doesn’t hit home. What AnatOnMe does is project onto the skin what’s going on underneath the skin–with the bones, tendons, muscles, and so on. It’s a sort of tricked-out, real-time x-ray that makes your injuries visually vivid–and scares you into compliance while it’s at it.
The device was presented at CHI 2011 in Vancouver this week.
The following video, while perhaps lacking in Oscar-worthy production values, does a good job walking you through the various uses of the device, which is comprised of a handheld projector and annotation device. It’s an all-in-one communications tool, really; on top of being a sort of on-body PowerPoint, it enables the doctor to take pictures of the patient, display them over time, and build a file for the patient to take home.
To my mind, the device–which, admittedly, is being called a prototype–falls short of its possibilities. Even its own creator calls it “somewhat low tech.” Imagine if a truly smart version of this technology used an augmented reality app to recognize the shape of a patient’s leg and display an animation of the underlying mechanics during a workout. Imagine if that app were integrated with the data the doctor acquires on each visit, so that it would be updated with your progress as you continue your regimen.