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HoloLens-app brings mixed reality to teaching in Leiden

From the start of the 2017 academic year, students at Leiden University Medical center (LUMC) can study the anatomy and movements of their own ankles in detail via mixed reality using a hologram.

This HoloLens app is one of the new teaching methods developed by LUMC and the New Media Lab at Leiden University aimed at motivating students and shortening their study time.  

Virtual learning brings theory to life

Many students find it difficult to understand the anatomy of complex joints such as the ankle in 3D.  Leiden teaching innovators have now constructed an app that will help them.  The glasses-shaped Microsoft HoloLens shows virtual objects in the actual environment of the wearer of the glasses: mixed reality. It makes a virtual lower leg hover suspended in the lecture room. Students can walk around, under or through it, switch it on and off, and cause the ankle joints to move.  What is new about this app is that students can operate the hologram with their own leg. 'This interaction with their own body mades this a world first,' says anatomy lecturer Beerend Hierck (LUMC).

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Closer to reality

'This new way of teaching using motion tracking has a lot of potential because it contains all kinds of elements that we know work well in teaching,' says Leontien van Melle from the Center for Innovation (Leiden University). Together with film maker Thomas Hurkxkens she is working on the project in the New Media Lab. 'Because students can experience the course material themselves during the learning process, they get closer to the real situation. Not only that, they can also learn together with fellow students and lecturers and they get immediate personal feedback.'

'The good thing is that students immediately start experimenting and engaging in learning through research,' commented Hierck. 'They crouch, stand on their toes, walk upstairs and downstairs and see what is happening in the virtual ankle joint.' 

Free online app

The prototype of the Dynamic Anatomy app is now ready for use. The aim is to make a free app version available in the online MS HoloLens store. The app uses a 3D model by tech partner Zygote and has been developed by innovation partner InSpark. At the end of last year the development team won the 2016/2017 Innovation Challenge organised by SURF, the collaborative ICT organisation for Dutch education and research. They used the 20,000 euro subsidy to develop the app, and also took part in TEDxAmsterdamED, the educational variant of the popular TEDx conferences.

Dynamic Anatomy app

The team are now researching the possibilities for other applications of the Dynamic Anatomy app in teaching, for example for other parts of the body. They are also looking at other disciplines where the HoloLens could be used, for example in archaeology. The developers are looking at how mixed reality can further improve the learning process.

View more information on this project.

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