Medical Device Innovations: From Sci-Fi Movies to the Real World

Star Trek Tricorder
The handheld medical device used in the popular Star Trek Enterprise might soon become a reality. With Qualcomm having began a contest to see if anyone can create a working tricorder (that weighs less than 5 pounds and fits in the palm!), the healthcare industry might be able to benefit from this great innovation. With the ability to diagnose different conditions (ranging from anemia, diabetes, pneumonia, sleep apnea, and chronic diseases amongst others) and monitor vital signs (like blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and respiratory rate) of patients, the tricorder can be used by patients in the comforts of their homes, without having to visit the doctor.

Ender’s Game Robotic Medical Assistant
While Ender’s Game featured a surgical robot performing brain surgery, robotic medical assistants majorly enable safe patient lifting, reducing incidents of workplace injuries, and hence improved clinician staff retention and satisfaction as well as patient satisfaction. These assistants are highly mobile, can move in any direction, and seamlessly operate in confined spaces. They can either work side by side with a trained nurse with the ability to perform simple tasks like monitoring vital signs or delivering medicine. Some robotic nurses serve as interfaces for doctors to use over distances to communicate with patients, and can be supervised by a remotely located nurse, enabling remotely located clinical experts to monitor, diagnose and treat patients in real-time

Mission Impossible Augmented Reality Contact Lens
Google Glass may soon become passé, as augmented reality contact lenses are here. If you’ve ever dreamed of neon interfaces float in front of you and information projected into your eyes (and not on screens), your dream might soon become reality – like showcased in Mission Impossible. With a futuristic vision, device manufacturers are working on developing lenses that will read the light from projectors fitted to glasses. Consisting of a small display, a camera, an RF antenna and sensors, these lenses will detect eye movement, and give patients the ability to control certain inputs just by blinking. These specialized lenses will help users focus on both close and faraway objects. What’s more, advanced AR lenses will also measure blood glucose from tears, and will transform the treatment and management of diabetes.

The Next Black Smart Garment
Move on smart wearables, as smart garments are soon going to become hugely popular. Documentary film The Next Black showcases smart garments (fibretronics) with microchips implanted into them. From socks and sleeves, to shirts and shorts – these smart garments have the ability to react to body temperature, track heart rate, monitor emotions and other vital signs (or even the mood of the wearer) and can be used by doctors in novel ways – without having to grab a phone or tap a screen. By decoupling the touch interface from the digital device, smart garments incorporate sensors that enable simple monitoring, and send the captured data through a wireless signal to the wearer’s mobile device.

The Fifth Element 3D Bio-printer
When makers of The Fifth Element showcased 3D bio-printing, little did they know the concept would someday become a reality! Imagine the level of innovation at which technology has now reached – while 3D printing is being popularly used to create objects, the technology is now being exploited in the medical field. 3D bioprinters are being used to build human tissues (and even organs), for the purpose of research as well as transplantation. Using computed tomography and MRI, bioprinters take a layer-by-layer approach and reconstruct cells and tissues which are then fed with oxygen and nutrients to keep them alive.

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