Google, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), has developed an AI-powered microscope aimed at assisting pathologists in swiftly identifying cancerous cells in tissue samples. Dubbed the Augmented Reality Microscope (ARM), this device, while resembling a conventional microscope, integrates advanced computer vision algorithms.
These algorithms guide medical professionals to focus on areas of concern, generating heatmaps that categorize cells as benign or malignant. This real-time visual aid can be projected onto a monitor for a more in-depth analysis.
Applications and Advancements
The ARM is not just a concept; it's already being utilized in research settings to detect various types of cancers, including breast, cervical, and prostate cancer, using four distinct AI algorithms.
The DoD's Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) sees potential in this technology, especially for military hospitals that often face staffing challenges. By accelerating the diagnostic process, the ARM can offer a second opinion, enhancing the accuracy of disease diagnosis. The DIU has entrusted the optics firm, Jenoptik, with the task of constructing the hardware, while Google is responsible for the software development. Preliminary tests have been promising, with the device achieving an accuracy rate of approximately 94% in distinguishing between cancerous and benign cells.
The Road Ahead
While the ARM is a significant leap in medical technology, experts emphasize that it's designed to complement, not replace, the expertise of pathologists. Dr. Niels Olson, the Chief Medical Officer of the Defense Innovation Unit, highlighted the potential of the ARM, especially in remote labs or for training purposes.
However, he also stressed the importance of rigorous testing before its widespread clinical application. The ARM's price point currently ranges between $90,000 to $100,000, but this may change as the technology evolves and becomes more accessible.
Microsoft HoloLens Contract Extension with the U.S. Army
Google is not the only company that partners with the US government in augmented reality. Earlier this month, the contract between the U.S. Army and Microsoft HoloLens was extended.
The U.S. Army has approved the next development phase for the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), expanding the contract between the military and the Microsoft HoloLens division. Microsoft‘s HoloLens IVAS is a mixed-reality headset that gives soldiers enhanced situational awareness and capabilities. It is based on HoloLens technology and augmented by Microsoft Azure cloud services.