Let's say you're an archaeologist deep in the remote jungles of Chiapas, excavating Mayan artifacts, when one of your colleague's appendix ruptures. You're miles away from a hospital. No time for emergency transport. Time to sterilize what knives you have and perform an impromptu appendectomy.

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Even the most intrepid explorer might balk at such a task. But thanks to this device, any wimp might one day lean back in his chair at a dinner party and regale the table with that one time we saved Dr. Jones' life on the banks of a muddy creek in the wilds of Mexico.


The device is called the Computer Assisted Medical Diagnosis and Surgery System (CAMDASS). It was created by the European Space Agency (ESA) to provide astronauts with on-the-spot medical knowledge.

Basically, the augmented reality-based CAMDASS provides a step-by-step tutorial for untrained medical operators. A head-mounted display superimposes images on the spur-of-the-moment "surgeon's" vision, while the system "registers" the afflicted's body with a set of markers.

So far, the prototype has been used only to execute ultrasound exams, since they're wide performed aboard the International Space Station (but jungle appendectomies can't be too far off.) The ultrasound probe is linked with CAMDASS and tracked by an infrared camera. The head mount includes a 3D augmented reality visor which provides the user with instructions of how to use the probe. Reference ultrasound images also appear for the wearer to refer to and can be controlled by voice commands.

Users who participated in trial runs reported they were able to perform complicated procedures on their own.

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"Based on that experience, we are looking at refining the system — for instance, reducing the weight of the head-mounted display as well as the overall bulkiness of the prototype," said Arnaud Runge in a news release. Runge is a biomedical engineer in charge of overseeing the project for ESA.

He added, "once it reaches maturity, the system might also be used as part of a telemedicine system to provide remote medical assistance via satellite. It could be deployed as a self-sufficient tool for emergency responders as well."

[Via GizMage]

Credit: ESA