Masthead Observing the future through an AR lens L

Mar 22, 2019

Observing the future through an AR lens

Estimated reading time: 4-6 minutes

The unveiling of an augmented reality (AR) concept for minimally invasive procedures highlights the exhilarating potential of AR in healthcare.   

Recently at the world’s largest mobile computing event (the Mobile World Congress), we took image-guided therapy (IGT) to a whole new frontier with an augmented reality (AR) concept for minimally invasive procedures*.


Combining our Azurion platform with Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 mixed-reality computing platform, this self-contained holographic computer is described by Microsoft as “the ultimate mixed reality device".

3D imagery guiding precision therapies

To picture how it works, think of driving a car. You want to keep both hands on the steering wheel and both eyes on the road. You don’t want the distraction of having to check screens and press buttons. Equally, when I’m working on a patient, I want to keep my hands on my instruments and my eyes on my patient. HoloLens 2 allows me to see the real world superimposed with live data and the 3D medical imagery needed to guide our precision therapy. Crucially, it also lets me control the procedure with voice recognition, eye tracking and advanced gestures. Having worked closely with the team at Microsoft from the start, it is so rewarding to see the results of this partnership come to life.


While it is a concept for now, this thrilling development provides a tantalizing glimpse into the interventional suite of the future. You can watch just how Azurion and HoloLens 2 work together here.

While it is a concept for now, this thrilling development provides a tantalizing glimpse into the interventional suite of the future. You can watch just how Azurion and HoloLens 2 work together here.

Atul Gupta

Chief Medical Officer, Image Guided Therapy, Royal Philips

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The news followed our Azurion with FlexArm introduction, the next step in our Azurion innovation journey. We developed this highly maneuverable system based on continuous data collection to identify and address certain pain points that will be familiar to anyone who’s spent time in an operating room or interventional suite, or managed a radiology, cardiology or surgery department (issues with radial access, limited space and high costs, to name just a few). The features make it easier for the clinician to perform imaging across the whole patient, it gives a clear view of what’s happening inside the patient and is simple and intuitive to use.

IGT is the natural entry point for AR in healthcare

Almost 20 years as a practicing physician have given me a keen perspective on the evolution of the interventional suite. The field of IGT has had nothing less than a transformative impact on both clinicians and patients. And yet, despite the many remarkable advances, clinicians still face substantial issues. Cumbersome lead protective gear and intricate procedures that call for a significant amount of manual control of equipment can be a physical strain for clinicians. Screen fatigue can also be a problem, given the vast amounts of clinical data and medical imagery needed to perform an interventional procedure. The impact? Increased strain on the medical team. These issues can be addressed through AR, with minimal adjustment required for clinicians who are used to wearing goggles and extensive equipment already, allowing greater focus on the patient. This makes IGT the natural entry point for AR in healthcare.


Those of us in industry – especially those of us who continue to treat patients – are driven to explore such pioneering solutions that can both alleviate these strains and improve the daily working lives of hospital staff. Having insight into what clinicians need, and working closely with them, gives us a great advantage and allows us to create more user-friendly, intuitive, interfaces that can – and do – make a difference.


We’ve made notable strides in this area, but we know that these developments are just scratching the surface. There is still much to be done to take minimally invasive procedures to the next level and improve patient and clinician experiences.


But the future may be closer than it seems: we can already use AR in diagnosis, and, a couple of years ago, in an industry-first, we introduced an AR surgical navigation technology to help surgeons perform image-guided open and minimally-invasive spine surgery.


Our collaboration with Microsoft highlights how much more potential there is in the use of AR in healthcare and it excites me. I’m especially intrigued to explore the role it will play in helping to deliver on the ‘quadruple aim’: enhancing the patient experience, improving health outcomes, lowering care costs, and improving the work life of care providers.


AR has already played a key role in optimizing solutions along the healthcare continuum. The next few years are likely to deliver developments in AR that will help provide a seamless experience for clinicians and keep the focus on the patient, where it belongs.

What do you see when you look through the lens of AR?


The augmented reality concept for image guided therapy developed by Philips and Microsoft is being used to gather further clinical insights and is not available for sale.

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Atul Gupta

Atul Gupta

Chief Medical Officer, Image Guided Therapy

Atul Gupta, MD is a practicing interventional radiologist and Chief Medical Officer at Philips’ Image Guided Therapy business cluster. Prior to joining Philips in 2016, Atul served on Philips’ International Medical Advisory Board for more than 10 years. 


Atul continues to perform both interventional and diagnostic radiology in suburban Philadelphia, in both hospital and office-based lab settings. He has been repeatedly recognized as top physician for his specialty in the media and serves on several advisory boards. He has also published and lectured internationally on a range of interventional procedures.

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