Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) Augmented Reality Microscope (ARM)
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif (September 2023)—The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has pioneered many medical and care delivery breakthroughs, including blood transfusions, blood banking, adhesives to seal wounds, and blood clotting bandages. Most recently, DoD is taking the lead on another medical frontier: artificial intelligence (AI) tools for early cancer detection. The Defense Innovation Unit’s (DIU’s) Predictive Health (PH) program aims to prototype and field AI solutions that will help medical experts transform and improve military health care.
Approximately $1.7 billion of the DoD’s annual budget is spent on cancer (paper, CPI inflation), and that figure continues to grow. Currently, the final evaluation of a suspected cancer, the final diagnosis of cancer or not, is made by a pathologist. The current diagnostic workflow, which involves microscopic review of the biopsy sample by a pathologist, is both time-consuming and open to error. To make matters worse, the number of healthcare specialists qualified to perform this evaluation is declining, a trend that is occurring throughout the U.S. healthcare system. More importantly, there is technology available that can help healthcare professionals maintain standards of operation (citation).
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Research with the ARM is ongoing, and the DIU is also soliciting feedback from organizations like Mitre and health systems like Veterans Affairs. There is work to be done, but since the DIU has validated the initial concept, the organization is beginning to think about how to scale the technology and collaborate with regulators.
The DIU negotiated agreements with Google and Jenoptik that will allow the technology to be distributed through the military and commercially. The DIU is hoping to make the ARM available to all government users through the General Services Administration website sometime this fall.
There are currently 13 ARMs in existence, and one is located at a Mitre facility just outside of Washington, D.C. Mitre is a nonprofit that works with government agencies to tackle big problems involving technology. Researchers there are working with the ARM to identify the vulnerabilities that could cause issues for pathologists in a clinical setting.
At first glance, the ARM looks a lot like a microscope that could be found in a high school biology classroom. The device is beige with a large eyepiece and a tray for examining traditional glass slides, but it’s also connected to a boxy computer tower that houses the AI models.
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