A Hologram For Medical Students Brings The Human Body To Life

Students struggle to focus for more than 20 to 30 minutes at a time, studies show. Beyond that, their ability to internalize information drops dramatically. But could technology help keep them engaged for longer?

Two junior doctors from London recently demonstrated a hologram machine that creates a very lifelike 3-D image. The human body they projected on-stage, as part of a lecture about kidney function, was 13-foot high–presumably enough to grab anyone’s attention.

Kapil Sugand and Pedro Campos used three projectors at different angles to create an illusion known as Pepper’s Ghost. The technique, which makes objects appear like they are floating in the air, has a long history in magic and theater, and is sometimes used in amusement parks to frighten kids.

But the doctors reckon it could also help medical students stay awake as they slog through another year of training. Their machine “simplifies abstract concepts, and stimulate[s] and prolong[s] attention spans,” Sugand says, in a press release. He says it’s a big step up from PowerPoint slides or endless whiteboard writing.

As well as kidneys, the doctors have animations covering trauma and orthopedics, and how the body reacts to malaria. The recent lecture was only a demonstration. But they hope to develop the project, known as Holography-Assisted Medical Lecturing and E-Tutoring (HAMLET), further in the next few months.

It’s debatable whether electronic aids help the learning process, or merely distract. But the hologram project shows the area is going to become more and more sophisticated in the future.