Written by:

Leslie Dalisay Director at Geometric Medical.

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From 'Wearable Tech' to 3D-printing technology, we look at some of the film gadgets that inspired and came to reality within health and science today.

google glass
image source: Mashable

X-Ray Glasses.

From the hit 60s TV series, Mission Impossible to James Bond's The World is Not Enough, the super x-ray vision technology will always be 'a-must' in the world of spying. This technology also made a revival in Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible franchise Mission impossible 1 to Ghost Protocol. An exciting and real-world version of this gadget came to life with the introduction of Google glass technology, which offers opportunities in medicine; specially in the field of medical surgery.

In 2013, a proof of concept video was created to visualise the synergy of Philips' Intellivue patient monitoring solutions with Google glass. The synergy of these two technologies in the video showcases its impact in healthcare.

wearable tech
image source: TechTimes

Wearable Tech + Body Sensors.

In the film, James Bond: The Spy Who Loved Me, 007's special gadget included a watch that transmits and receives highly-classified messages. A similar technology is now being introduced for healthcare from the likes of Samsung Galaxy gear, Nike Fuel band to the highly-anticipated iWatch from Apple - all competing in the digital health sector.

Another exciting field within the digital health space is the sensor market, which offers an array of new technologies impacting health, tracking and diagnostics. Some of the exciting sensor technologies today are HEXOSKIN - a bluetooth vest that tracks the body's vital signs, OMsignal - a biometric clothing with embedded sensors that continuously track the wearer's biometrics to monitor ECG, heart rate, breathing and activity, and displays the data on your smartphones and ATHOS - a wearable workout technology which monitors muscle exertions plus breathing and heart rate.

image source: Amazingstuff


In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the chief engineer blind-from-birth character, wore a cool tracker / vision-granting VISOR (Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement), which provided him multiple special sight abilities, such as infrared and microscopic vision.

More recently, a similar tracker technology is being developed by scientists in London for severely disabled people who have lost the use of their arms. They are developing a computer system that can tell the difference between "looking around or scoping the area" and "take me in that direction" as a command. This technology, whether indirectly influenced by the film or not, will definitely provide a better future for patients.

Bionic, prosthetic arm
image source: NextWeb.com

Bionic Man.

Our first glimpse of this technology came from James Cameron's classic film, Terminator 2: Judgement Day. An article from nextweb.com, talks about a state-of-the-science prosthetic arm similar to Terminator - called 'bebionic' - that can manoeuvre 360 degrees and responds to signals from muscles in the arm. Thanks to this exciting-cyborg-like device, this technology will never go 'hasta la vista' in the world of healthcare. It can transform the lives of amputees globally in their daily activities.

3D printing
image source: Businessweek

3D Printing.

3D technology has shown promising applications in the field of reconstructive surgery. A recent study that showcased its use came from a group of scientists and researchers at the University of Illinois and Washington University, who used computer modelling and 3D printing in creating a prototype for a next-generation pacemaker. This new cardiac device includes a network of sensors and electrodes, designed to fit over the heart and help it contract and expand while beating.

The Mission Impossible films had introduced us to the world of 3D face-printing through an uncanny resemblance of someone else's face. From organ replication, facial reconstruction, custom prosthetic limbs, hearing aids to the treatment of head injuries and burn victims, the role of 3D printing in healthcare today cannot be missed. It has certainly provided exciting ways to revolutionise the health and science industry.

robotic surgery, AI
image source: University of Oxford

Artificial Intelligence (AI).

In 1968, director Stanley Kubrick gave the world a sci-fi masterpiece — 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film not only changed the very form of all sci-fi / fantasy films in visual art we know now, but it has also introduced us to highly progressive science and technologies. One of the most memorable part of the film was the role of artificial intelligence known as the Hal 9000. An intelligent machine that embarks on a mission to Jupiter. It was programmed to deliver optimal assistance to the crew of the spaceship Discovery and is capable of speech production and comprehension, facial recognition, and lip reading. It can also interpret emotional behaviour, reason and appreciate art.

Today, we can appreciate the many uses of artificial intelligence in healthcare such as image analysis (i.e. an M.I.T.-lead research team developed a machine-learning algorithm that analyses 3D scans up to 1,000 times faster) and AI-assisted robotic surgery — the most recent of this was conducted at the Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital which showcased a robot successfully operating on a human eye for the first time.

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