How Augmented Reality
Is Used In Healthcare

2016 is a defining year for augmented reality (AR). Riding the success of Pokemon GO, AR technology has become increasingly viable and accessible for the masses. Although deemed in its infancy, this technology has been around for some time now. In fact, since the first known AR discovery in 1901, it has faced many technological development and deployment challenges over the years.

Today, the mass adoption of augmented reality is gearing towards a more advanced communication platform not only as a marketing tool, but also an exciting medium to a diverse and broader spectrum. In healthcare for instance, the use of AR has been introduced not only to educate and communicate the science but to further the message by immersing and engaging the audience into a deeper and closer view of the biological processes that would not be achieved by any other form of media. AR provides a deeper and an intimate sense of user control with different viewing angles, allowing an experiential form of information discovery.

In the following examples, we look at how AR technology revolutionizes healthcare and how it it aims to elevate and improve patient's quality of life. We will also look into the key augmented reality timeline and find out where it all started for AR.

The following are just a few amazing examples of how augmented reality is being adopted in healthcare:


Microsoft unveiled its latest technology called HoloLens, a holographic, augmented reality headset (or mixed reality) that has built-in sensors and gestures for interactivity and enables the users to interact freely with virtual models, environments and 'holograms'.

In early 2015, Microsoft HoloLens introduced HoloAnatomy, as a new way to teaching and understanding the human anatomy. Aim to transform medical education using AR tech that displays real data-anatomical models and offers an intuitive use of AR having obvious advantages over traditional methods.


AccuVein (AccuVein AV400) is a medical device that uses augmented reality using a handheld scanner that projects over skin and shows nurses and doctors where veins are in the patients' bodies. This enables clinicians to verify vein patency and avoid valves or bifurcations.


1An Augmented reality that can save lives by showing defibrillators nearby. AED4EU was created by Lucien Engelen of Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in The Netherlands. The users can add places where automated external defibrillators or AEDs are located. Its database can be accessed through an application. Using a reality browser called, the Layar browser, the user can project the exact location of the nearest AEDs on your phone screens and it will take a minute to locate them and help those in need.



A Google Impact Challenge winner, a research group at the University of Oxford introduces us to their advanced AR technology called, VA-ST. The team is committed to bringing revolutionary computer vision systems to personal real world problems and applications with the use of AR. They are developing products for everyday life based on field-leading computer vision and wearable technologies.

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2Timeline: Augmented Reality Technology

  • 1901

    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum envisions electronic spectacles that overlay data onto real life, the first recorded idea for augmented technology.

  • 1968

    Ivan Sutherland invents the first piece of technology resembling augmented reality: a head-mounted display positioned as a window to a virtual world.

  • 1975

    Myron Krueger creates an artificial reality laboratory called Videoplace, allowing users to interact with virtual objects for the first time.

  • 1990

    The first attributed use of the term 'augmented reality' by Thomas P. Caudell, a former Boeing researcher.

  • 1992

    The first major paper on AR system prototype, KARMA, is presented.

  • 2000

    Bruce H. Thomas develops the first outdoor mobile AR game, ARQuake.

  • 2009

    ARToolKit is ported to Adobe Flash (FLARToolKit), bringing AR to the web browser.

  • 2013

    Google announces the open test beta of Google Glass.

  • 2015

    Hololens and Windows Holographic revealed by Microsoft, and Project Tango by Google. Snapchat buys Loosery, enabling users to overlay graphics onto people's faces.

  • 2016

    Nintendo and Niantic release Pokemon Go, bringing mass adoption of augmented reality.

  • 2017

    Apple announced its latest augmented reality platform for developers, called ARKit, which works through a technique called visual-inertial odometry.