Published 5/9/22 in the Baltimore Sun

The University of Maryland is teaming up with the University of Michigan to develop virtual reality technology that could “fundamentally change medicine.”

The federal government is spending $4.75 million through the National Science Foundation to establish the Center for Medical Innovations in Extended Reality, or MIXR, the University of Maryland School of Medicine announced Monday.

Other money will be coming from Google, Microsoft, the parent company of Facebook, and other companies.

Dr. Sarah Murthi, a professor of surgery at the Maryland medical school in Baltimore and the co-investigator at MIXR, plans to use this technology in education.

“Immersive technologies have the potential to fundamentally change, improve and reduce the cost of medical training and maintaining clinical skill across all aspects of health care,” Murthi said in a statement.

Augmented reality technology has been used in popular cellphone games like Pokemon Go, where players can battle Pokemon in real-life settings using the phone’s camera and GPS technology. But instead of capturing a Pikachu in an operating room, a physician could use augmented reality, for example, to overlay a patient’s ultrasound data at their bedside.

Dr. Amitabh Varshney, the lead-site principal investigator at the center, said “the synergy in MIXR will be contagious.”

“Our industry partners will push forward new ideas and novel technologies,” said Varshney, who is dean of University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, in a statement. “The scientists and physicians will help refine and test those ideas. And we both will work with the Food and Drug Administration to bring these technologies from the lab to the proper health care setting where they can have an exponential impact.”