In the coming years, deep space exploration missions will see humanity travel further away from our planet than ever before, meaning that medical help will no longer be just a simple call to mission control. The deeper into space we go, the more the laws of physics will impede a crew’s ability to obtain assistance in a meaningful way; a voyage to Mars, for example, could mean a one-way communication delay of between four and 24 minutes, depending on where Mars is in its orbit. But certain medical conditions demand immediate lifesaving intervention, and astronauts’ pre-flight medical training is limited. The MedCoach project aims to address these issues by providing handsfree, just-in-time (JIT) training and real-time medical guidance by employing computer vision and augmented reality (AR) to provide crew members with the skill sets required in the event of a medical emergency.
Saving lives in remote locations closer to home
MedCoach provides expert real-world guidance right when the skills to perform a procedure are most urgently needed, not just in space but also here on Earth. Many of the same situational challenges faced by astronauts apply in a multitude of remote or difficult terrestrial environments where communication connections can be unreliable and there is no time to waste—whether that means delivering emergency health care in an isolated northern community or repairing a piece of critical infrastructure.
The MedCoach system equips those delivering critical services with real-time instruction, using an AR-enabled, hands-free, and voice-controlled headset that allows the user to fully focus on the task at hand in unpredictable or high-stress situations. With support provided by the Canadian Space Agency, MedCoach is currently in the prototyping phase as we explore possible implementations in all manner of remote environments.
- Expand state-of-the-art medical AR landmarking techniques
- Integrate computer vision for object recognition to assist with the identification of medical instruments and human anatomy
- Configurable level of medical guidance based on operator needs
- Implement handsfree, voice-controlled application guidance
- Standardize a schema for medical guidance procedures
Where it could apply
- Isolated, under-serviced communities
- Remote work sites
- Battlefield or conflict zone
- Crisis situations in which communications are disrupted
How it could apply
- Medical interventions
- Equipment maintenance and repair
- Security and operational checks
- Technical training
Robustness in space means robustness on earth
Other systems designed to address the same challenges of remote just-in-time training with AR assume that there is a network and cloud to connect. That only solves half the problem. Because it was designed to operate in space, MedCoach assumes an intermittent network connectivity environment, providing full-fidelity guidance even when there is no signal.
In a country with a reputation for space medicine, LEAP Biosystems is one of Canada’s leaders. Led by former Canadian astronaut Dave Williams, our partner in MedCoach has the mission to combine clinical medicine with innovative and disruptive technologies for human space exploration, while translating its expertise back to provide cutting edge medical care here on earth.