In 2014 radiology professor Mark Griswold was looking for a new way to teach anatomy. Running a cadaver lab can be expensive, and corpses offer surprisingly limited views into the body. In the midst of his search, he was invited to Microsoft’s top secret testing facility. He expected to be shown a virtual reality headset, a potentially useful tool for teaching. Instead technicians outfitted him with something even more groundbreaking: a mixed reality headset, called HoloLens, the first self-contained computer that allows users to see holograms amid their surroundings.
When Griswold put on the headset, he was transported to a mountain on the surface of Mars. Standing beside him was a NASA scientist. They chatted and even made eye contact, but the scientist was a hologram—a real person beamed in from another room—and so was Mars, built out of rover images. The experience was so overwhelming that he had to sit down: “I immediately knew my world had changed that day.” The headset, he realized, would be invaluable in the classroom.
Griswold and his colleagues at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic set out to design a program for HoloLens that would revolutionize anatomy lessons. Last year they released HoloAnatomy, a demonstration application that transforms images into 3-D models of the human body’s bones and organs and enables students to explore their shape and movement from every angle.