With the soaring demand for 3D visual information, holograms are becoming more widely used as an alternative to AR and VR. Health Tech World meets pioneer Holoxica, whose longstanding work in the field makes it a frontrunner in a fast-developing phenomenon
The days of 2D visuals are rapidly being replaced in healthtech by 3D graphics, in everything from medical surgery to product development to university teaching.
And taking the rapid rise of VR and AR to the next level is the use of holograms shown on 3D light field displays – 3D images which require no headset or glasses to view, yet contain even more intricate details. Moreover, they are viewable by multiple people simultaneously and are COVID-19 safe.
While an emerging phenomenon globally, Holoxica is 12 years ahead of the game, having been established in 2008 to pioneer what is only now starting to realise its potential.
Holoxica created the world’s first hologram of the brain, and has been used in medical settings for a number of years, with individual surgeons commissioning holograms to help both them and their patients better understand the problem and surgical procedure that lies ahead.
It has also more recently created 3D Telepresence, an immersive videoconferencing platform which works without the need to wear glasses or headsets, which was pioneered during the COVID-19 pandemic through an Innovate UK grant to step up the levels of innovation needed to ensure communications could continue during lockdown.
Although its widespread adoption has yet to happen, the increasing global demand for the highest quality visuals in the most easy-to-consume formats places Holoxica, with its advanced 3D visualisation app Holoviewer, at the front of the emerging holographic market.
“3D Technology fascinates and resonates with people – we see the world in 3D, it’s the most natural thing,” says Wendy Lamin, who co-founded the company with Dr Javid Khan.
“We could’ve beaten Google on so many fronts with what we do, but the investment hasn’t been there so far.
“But even without that, we have created a number of world firsts and no-one else does exactly what we do with both hardware and software content, taking any type of data and turning it into real 3D.
“It’s not just about AR and VR – there is another way to do it.”
Already set to take advantage of the emerging opportunities, Holoxica has the years of expertise and experience to set it apart from the growing crowd – Dr Khan, a leader in the field of 3D holographics, has invested years in the development of the business, representing the UK on a global scale to showcase its pioneering work in tech.
Relocating from Brussels – where Dr Khan had a high-profile European role – to Edinburgh to pursue his ambition of creating a business which could bring holograms to life without the need for headsets, Holoxica has made Scotland its home and works with leading medical figures worldwide to support their work.
“Each and every one of them tells us ‘I wish we had this when I was studying’. This has great application for students, and we know through some 2013 American military research that through holograms students memorise the human anatomy much more quickly,” says Wendy.
“It is also very important with doctors and patients. You could go to your neurologist and they can show you a 2D black and white scan, but seeing your scan in colourful 3D is so much more informative. It can be used by surgeons in pre-surgical planning without the need for a headset, and for the patient, they will have less anxiety about the upcoming procedure – it’s about education and empowerment.
“Where we are in Scotland, with the Highlands and Islands, it is not always easy to get access to a specialist- so this kind of resource for them can be invaluable.
“Currently, patients have to call the hospital and ask for a disk with their 2D scans to be sent to them – but by using our holograms, they sit in the cloud and can be downloaded on both sides, by the doctor and patient. It’s easier and faster.
“During the pandemic, one cancer surgeon we are working with had to give a cancer diagnosis over the phone. He used 3D printing of the scans to educate his patients, but our tech can help patients to better understand what is happening and will happen, with 3D videoconferencing, 3D visualization and 3D scans, and this can really help with empathy.
“It’s so much better looking your surgeon in the eye in 3D than trying to do these things by email.”
Patient engagement has also been a valuable use for Holoxica in other settings, with one US hospital engaging the business to support an information campaign.
“We can produce 3D content animations, which is a great way of showing new surgery that was being adopted at a children’s hospital in the United States,” says Wendy.
“They want to abandon giving out leaflets as they wanted patients and parents to be able to zoom in and out of the information in 3D, the nurses could show them matters of complex anatomy and information on an iPad.
“It shows how effective this can be and that VR and AR are not the only way to do 3D.”
To help advance Holoxica’s work further, the business is seeking investment, which to date has not been forthcoming in the way they hoped.
“We are looking for investment to further develop what we do, to support even more companies to realise the potential of working in 3D,” says Wendy.
“We received a £1.2million Euro Horizon 2020 grant, but we have never had the investment to take the results into the marketplace, which is the sad part of the story.
“With investment, we could bring so much more and we hope people will come to us from far and wide.”