Augmented reality glasses that allow dentists to speed up procedures and help students learn faster are being trialled at the University of Western Australia. The augmented reality software and hardware is in the final stage of development and aims to improve the speed and accuracy of procedures, as well as improve the quality of teaching in the field.
AR is the technology that superimposes computer-generated imagery onto the real world when looked at through a portable device. UWA researcher Marcus Pham has developed technology allowing dentists to bring up information on a pair of glasses with the wave of a hand, without having to interrupt a procedure.
Perhaps the most useful application of the technology will be in the education of student dentists. Students spend a large proportion of their time learning key manual skills such as tooth preparation, crowns and fillings, which require high levels of supervision.
"We have issues trying to increase the speed of learning of students as well as increase the quality of their work," Mr Pham said. "Students require almost constant supervision from lab supervisors and a lot of time is wasted waiting for them to double check the work."
Teaching costs reduced
The technology will allow lab supervisors to oversee more students at one time, greatly reducing the teaching costs. It will also allow dentists to reduce the amount of time they spend with each patient.
"We found there is a huge demand for this kind of technology," Mr Pham said. "A lot of dentists are looking to boost the quality of their work."
The glasses work by projecting a semi-transparent image over the top of the actual surface the user can see, placing virtual objects into the real surroundings.
The new technology will allow the dentist to stay within the operating area, rather than refer to a computer, and it is expected the advancement will help the practitioner see an extra patient per day.
It will begin comparative clinical testing at the end of January, with the aim of being integrated into the dentistry school by mid-year. Mr Pham hopes to have the product commercially available by the end of 2017.