Last year, I reported on the partnership between Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and Microsoft to explore augmented reality medical education. They broke ground on a new “state of the future” Health Education Campus with the goal of teaching medical students through the latest available digital technology, including medical apps. Fast forward one year, and Case Western has announced the start of a pilot study of its virtual anatomy lab called HoloAnatomy.

Thirty-two medical students will trial the HoloAnatomy mixed-reality lab this fall. Their performance will be compared with medical students in the traditional cadaver lab. HoloAnatomy is a medical-education application developed for the Microsoft HoloLens device, and it was recently demonstrated at the Health 2.0 Conference in California by Microsoft’s Chief Medical Officer, Simon Kos, MD. HoloAnatomy allows the user to visualize a human body in 3D using multiple tracking sensors. Various muscle and organ layers can be seen by scanning through the body, without the need to dissect through fat and fascia at length — and without the exposure to formaldehyde typically used to preserve cadavers. Case Western has released a demonstration video of a class trying out an early version of HoloAnatomy, viewable here. It’s won several awards, including the 2017 Digital Edge Award and the 2016 Jackson Hole Science Media Award.

This study is compelling, as no current comparison of traditional anatomy labs to advanced virtual reality (referred to as mixed-reality by some in the case of the Microsoft HoloLens) has been widely published. While this is only a small initial study and much further work will need to be done, it should provide further evidence on whether or not such interventions actually work in medical education. Once the results are published, expect to see them covered here at iMedicalApps.