One of the top lab informatics trends is augmented reality (AR) which is moving out of the realms of gaming and into the workplace. Unlike virtual reality, AR tools do not disconnect people from the real world, instead they ‘augment’ it by adding extra information.
Healthcare professionals are using AR to assist with teaching students, performing surgery and taking blood. AR can also help with life science research – especially training, international collaborations and regulatory compliance.
LabTwin recently hosted a webinar where industry experts talked through the top lab informatics trends we are likely to see in life science laboratories over the next decade. All experts agreed that as AR tools become more accessible, they have the potential to transform research capabilities.
Augmented Reality to Improve Training
With AR tools, trainers could monitor trainees remotely, seeing and hearing the trainee’s environment and offering constructive comments and advice in real time. Over time, life science research laboratories could build their own training programs, incorporating AR and artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline onboarding of new employees and ensure adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Augmented reality is a key enabler for lab environments. With it, you can share everything you see, in real time, with colleagues. Imagine how easy it could be to train your colleagues and share your insights.” Thomas Henseler, Digital Strategist, Microsoft
Augmented Reality to Power Collaborations
Oscar Kox, CEO and Founder of iVention, uses Microsoft’s HoloLens to work with collaborators in other countries and gather user requirement data. He highlighted the fact that with AR, foreign collaborators can see the same data and lab environment even when physically located on different sides of the world. AR tools, according to Oscar, will become even more valuable as life science instrumentation gains wireless connectivity. For example, newer balances can connect to the internet and directly input data into any wireless technology such as LabTwin’s digital lab assistant. These values could be instantly shared with collaborators.
Augmented Reality to Facilitate Real-Time Data Capture and Quality Assurance
Perhaps one of the greatest values that AR tools could bring to biopharmaceutical research is the ability to capture quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA) data in real-time. With this capability, scientists can make decisions immediately to maintain quality.
“For QA/QC you must look at trends in data. If outside acceptable limits, you must act immediately. However, most of the time scientists perform an experiment and then enter data into the system afterwards. This is where voice-powered technologies like LabTwin or AR tools like HoloLens are really valuable. They capture data in real time so you can make decisions on the spot." Oscar Kox, CEO and Founder, iVention
Augmented Reality to Improve Compliance
Regulatory compliance in the life science industry requires strict documentation of procedures and results. AR tools can assist with compliance by providing interactive protocols, automatically recording data, and including unalterable time stamps. AR can also enable strict adherence to SOPs by monitoring researchers’ actions and only unlocking subsequent steps once each task is performed correctly.
"AR tools are very important for compliance – not just voice-activated tools but also visual tools. Researchers can see protocols in front of them and share what they are seeing with whomever is training them. AR can also enable adherence to SOPs, for example until a researcher is wearing gloves, they can’t activate step 2 of a protocol. With full documentation and time stamps, it’s easier to show compliance." Guru Singh, Head of Growth, LabTwin
Over the next decade we are likely to see many more AR tools enter biopharmaceutical research labs. AR tools will help with staff training, interlab collaborations, quality assurance, regulatory compliance and many other aspects of biomedical research.
Watch our Webinar on Top Informatics Trends in 2020 for more information on Digital Lab Assistants, Artificial Intelligence in the Lab and other key trends.