Augmenting Anatomy

A Silicon Valley museum is using Augmented Reality to put a tech spin on the Body Worlds concept.

Earlier this month the Tech Museum of Innovation opened a groundbreaking new exhibit to the public. Body Worlds Decoded was unveiled on October 15th, 2017 and is set for an unprecedented 10-year run featuring bodies and specimens preserved by Dr. Gunther von Hagens’ Institute for Plastination, which created the iconic Body Worlds exhibitions to help people better understand the human body and its functions.

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Funded by Silicon Valley philanthropists Ann and John Doerr, the experience uses Augmented Reality and other emerging technologies to put a Silicon Valley spin on the Body Worlds concept. In the exhibit, displays of real human bodies — eight full-body plastinates and more than 60 individual specimens — help visitors explore anatomy in a whole new way, from the smallest organs to the most complex systems, including nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, urinary, reproductive, digestive and locomotive.

“Body Worlds Decoded is an experience like no other, and it is only fitting that this blending of nature and technology should be celebrated in Silicon Valley,” said John Doerr, the chairman of Kleiner Perkins who with his wife Ann is contributing $5 million to The Tech to make the exhibit possible. “Ann and I are thrilled to help bring this experience to life, and it is our dream that it will inspire youth and contribute to a greater understanding of the life sciences.”

In partnership with the Institute for the Future (IFTF ), the San Jose-based museum created a custom AR system called Iris that allows visitors to view and interact with immersive graphics, 3D models and virtual objects including a heart, eyeball, digestive tract and skull.

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Much like some of the anatomy applications already being deployed on devices such as the Microsoft HoloLens, this technology allows users to walk all the way around a beating heart as if it were floating in front of them, or wander around inside an eyeball, getting up-close and personal with an optical nerve if they so wish.

Iris uses ARtifactor — content authoring and management software developed by IFTF — and runs on the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, a Google Tango-enabled mobile device. The museum also plans on adding further content such as 3D models and animations to the 5,000-square-foot exhibition, so visitors will always have something new to discover.

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“This is the future of museums — AR is about to transform how we interpret our world and how we approach education,” said Toshi Anders Hoo, lead AR consultant and director of the Institute for the Future’s Emerging Media Lab. “The Tech has emerged as a leader in the exciting AR movement, offering a whole new world of immersive technology that will influence museums and exhibitions globally.”

The museum is aiming for Body Worlds Decoded to become Northern California’s premiere public anatomy lab as well as an AR testbed, where educators and doctors will be able to bring students and patients to broaden their understanding of the human anatomy and its functions. The AR industry will also be invited to use the exhibition to prototype advances in software and hardware with the community.

“Body Worlds Decoded is one of the most ambitious and exciting anatomy experiences ever created,” said Tim Ritchie, president and CEO of The Tech Museum of Innovation. “The human body contains so many mysteries, and the implementation of AR and all of its capabilities stands to provide valuable clues in unlocking those secrets and inspiring the next generation of advances in medicine and physiology.”

People of all ages can participate in live demonstrations of Anatomage, a 3D virtual dissection used at the nation’s top medical schools. Augmented reality is, in fact, being increasingly used to guide and train doctors and even surgeons on complex procedures.

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But the exhibit goes even further and — true to the vision of the original Body Worlds shows — also explores the artistic side of anatomy, this time through installations of art inspired by the wonder and mystery of the human body. Pieces by local artist Lauren A. Toomer will be displayed, and visitors will be invited to create their own artwork.

“The human form has intrigued artists throughout history,” said Lisa Incatasciato, Exhibit Content Developer at The Tech. “Despite technology giving us a more accurate look, there’s still something mysterious and inspiring about creating your own visual interpretation of the body. You don’t have to love anatomy to enjoy this exhibit, but we bet you’ll appreciate it before you leave.”
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Originally published at Tech Trends.