UK Army Medics to Use AR Glasses for Remote Battlefield Surgical Assistance

The British Army is testing technology that allows medical specialists thousands of miles away from the battlefield to instruct frontline medics how to operate on injured soldiers using augmented reality (AR).

The technology involves a camera mounted on a frontline medic to provide a first-person view of the procedure they are undertaking. Images are transmitted to a distant specialist who shares real-time instructions on a computer or directly onto the AR glasses the battlefield surgeon is wearing.

The AR kit, part of the army’s Project Lara, further allows a remotely-posted medic to share information with a specialist sitting in any part of the world through a secured messaging app.

The app is currently being tested by 1,500 military personnel and is expected to be rolled out across the services in April.

App Reduces Response Time 

The app allows the user to know which specialists are available immediately.

Royal Army Medical Corps Lt Col Oli Bartels, who is leading the project, said the app has “reduced our response time from about three days when we used email, down to about 15 minutes to one hour.”

“The further forward in the battlefield you go, the more that individual medic may need support,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“Generally you have junior people further forward and more senior people further back looking after a wider area,” he explained. “That single junior medic is the one that actually needs the best communications capabilities and traditionally, the further forward you go, the lower quality of communications you have.”

Additionally, the kit contains a system that streams the patient’s vital signs.

AR Makes Surgery Easier

Bartel said the surgeons working on the system on a trial basis have found it helpful. They are glad that someone is looking over their shoulder, he said.

“That’s how they think about it, that they are operating like they would in a theater looking over their shoulder and supporting them.”

Apart from Lara, the army is running a similar project called Morpho, which allows frontline medics to perform ultrasounds while being guided by a remote radiologist.

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