Last month Apple received a patent for a new 3D interface for manipulating objects on computer screens, Medgadget recently reported. As Houston Neal at the Medical Software Advice blog suggests, the new technology could be particularly useful for doctors working with clinical images.

Basically, the 3D technology uses a computer camera to look at the movement of hands or head of the user to transform objects on the screen. As Neal explains, instead of using a mouse and keyboard, Mac users can move their head or body to control an image on screen.

The 3D interface's intuitive nature does not require touching any physical controls, making this new capability especially useful for radiologists and physicians using intraoperative imaging modalities while scrubbed up.

Here's a short demo video of this new technology:

According to Neal, physicians rely so heavily on charts and graphical information that Apple’s head-tracking technology would be a welcomed capability in the industry. It could be used to view X-rays, CAT scans, MRI scans, anatomical diagrams and more.

For example, a neurologist could review an MRI scan of the brain by turning their head or using hand gestures.

The Medical Software Advice blog reports four additional ways Apple’s 3D head-tracking could be used in healthcare:

  • MRI scans and X-rays – Doctors could view MRI scans and x-rays in 3D from their tablet or smart phone. Once difficult-to-find fractures could be easily identified by looking behind the bone.
  • Graphics and drawing –Apple’s technology would allow physicians could “draw with their hands,”
  • Ultrasound – Not only will you be able to view an ultrasound in 3D, Apple’s technology would allow you to view a fetus from all angles.
  • Medical education – Even if head-tracking doesn’t become widely adopted by practicing physicians, it could be a new solution for students to memorize bones of the body.

While Apple’s 3D head-tracking capability is an extremely new development, it has potential to make a difference for physicians—especially surgeons in the OR—and it will be interesting to see how this new technology unfolds.

Sources: Medical Software Advice blog, Medgadget