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Freehelm: Making technology work in the dissection room

Leap Motion Skull

Advances in hardware and software have allowed computers to permeate into virtually every aspect of our lives, but there is still an absence of fit-for-purpose computing in clinical training environments.

Problem

Anatomy is taught to students of medicine, dentistry and science by dissection of donor cadavers in a laboratory. The nature of this work means that traditional physical media (e.g. manuals, textbooks) are rendered useless after only a few weeks of use. Electronic equipment succumbs to the same fate; anatomy departments have typically purchased expensive equipment, which quickly becomes damaged or is discarded, or avoided investing in technology altogether.

Although this problem is associated with the teaching of anatomy, similar problems are undoubtably experienced elsewhere, including surgical/dental settings, scientific laboratories, maintenance and manufacturing facilities, and in defence R&D environments.

Solution



Freehelm is a cloud-based document repository and gesture browser. It allows an administrator (e.g. a lecturer or tutor) to upload a selection of documents to our secure servers whereafter a number of users (i.e. students) in other locations can access and browse these documents using only hand gestures. This system does away with touch-screens and traditional peripheral input devices, such as keyboards and mice, and allows computers to enter previously inaccessible locations, such as anatomy teaching laboratories. Freehelm uses an inexpensive Leap Motion controller to detect movements.

Benefits

There are lots of benefits that come with switching to a Freehelm lab. Students have a better learning experience, staff have more time to spend teaching and general lab running costs are reduced. Also, ditching paper products is great for the environment.

Interactivity & User Experience

Users of Freehelm can expect a superior user experience compared to traditional paper-based laboratories. Freehelm can be used without needing to remove gloves or putting down dissection instruments; this creates an uninterrupted workflow where previously students would have to stop working, remove their gloves and fiddle with pages of books that would likely be stuck together by embalming chemicals or human remains.

We're also able to embed custom images, anamations and interactive elements. Freehelm has an in-house medical artist who is exporing the best way to combine the unique user interface (UI), animation and 3D anatomical concepts.


Students really like using a cool gesutre interface, but at Freehelm we've put a lot of thought into developing a platform that is intuitive, powerful and understated. In short, Freehelm always works, it is easy to use, and it gets out the way so students can focus on the most important thing: cadaveric dissection. We want to compliment traditional anatomical teaching, not distract from it.

Cleanliness & Infection Control

In clinical and anatomical environments Freehelm eliminates the need for keyboards and mice, which are a dangerous infection risk. One study has looked at the amount of organisms on keyboards in an intensive care unit. It found that 100% of keyboards were contaminated with mould and 60% with MRSA.

bacteria

Cost & Staff Time

Allowing learning facilitators to distribute teaching material to the dissection room from their office computer saves huge amounts of staff time. Changes can be made to teaching material quickly and easily allowing curricula to evolve over time without costly and time-consuming reprints.

The low hardware cost of this system is also attractive to customers. The Leap sensor adds less than £60 to the cost of a standard computer; this cost is offset by reduced running costs within 2 years.

Freehelm and Leap can also be deployed in laboratories that have existing computers installed. If new hardware is required, Freehelm will run on any computer, with any operating system and with any web browser.

Sustainability & Environmental Impact

The reduced use of consumables and reduced replacement of electronic devices dramatically reduces the environmental impact of Freehelm labs. Reduced Plastic glove use/disposal and elimination of paper printing are two areas where Freehelm can assist in minimising the environmental impact of our clients. There are also significant costs associated with the disposal of clinical waste; a reduction in soiled gloves and paper is not only good for the environment, but results in reduced clinical waste disposal costs.

You can find out more about Freehelm on our website. Feel free to email me if you're curious about what Freehelm could offer you. You can also keep up with what we're up to on Twitter.