Just last month, CBS, Bloomberg, and other business news sources began acknowledging that Augmented Reality might be the next big thing on the technology front. Some reported that AR could be a $120 billion market by the year 2020. While that’s no surprise to us here at ARinMED, the implications of the media buzz are huge–the more companies that believe in the power of AR, the more funding and resources will be funneled toward developments in the field, and that means we will be seeing more amazing innovations in the near future.
One company that is ahead of the innovative curve for AR in the medical field is ANIMA RES. ANIMA RES is a relatively small medical technology company headquartered in Bonn, Germany. They developed one of the first medical applications for Microsoft’s HoloLens, the INSIGHT HEART app. We’ve talked about the INSIGHT HEART app before–you can read about it here–and we were pretty excited about it. Why wouldn’t we be? It’s an amazing piece of technology.
However, we were just as fascinated by the fact that ANIMA RES got such a big head-start in the medical AR development market. How does a niche technology company in Bonn, Germany become an early-stage entrant in a high-tech market that is predicted to soon dwarf other technology markets? What led ANIMA RES to beat so many other much bigger and more resourced med-tech companies to the AR punch? We found these questions intriguing, so we sat down with the folks at ANIMA RES in late March to try and learn more about the team behind the INSIGHT HEART app. Their inspiring and motivational success story follows.
ANIMA RES began as a 3D medical animation studio, developing videos and apps for medical and scientific audiences. With over 300 projects under their belts since their establishment in 1997, they’re certainly experienced in the medical field, and their impressive list of nationally-recognized medical industry clients speak to that. ANIMA RES is led by Pablo Olmos and Rodrigo Olmos, the Managing Directors and co-founders of the company. Pablo has an MA in Electronic Arts from the University of Middlesex in London, and has authored several books about 3D computer animation. Rodrigo has a degree in design from the Köln International School of Design, and his creative work has earned him prestigious international awards, such as First Prize at the Bitfilm Festival in 2003 and 2004. Rodrigo, Pablo and ANIMA RES’s Team Strategist, Sam Jayhooni, who has 18 years of experience in audio production and is also involved in company management, were kind enough to take some time out of their busy schedule to talk to us about their company. As you might expect, we found all three of them to be approachable, humble, smart and passionate. We now want to share a bit of their AR pioneering story with you, the readers of ARinMED.
Interestingly, Pablo, Rodrigo, and Sam are not formally trained in the medical field: they’re graphic designers and software developers by trade. They learned everything they know about the needs and demands of the medical technology field through their third-party work. So, where did the idea for INSIGHT HEART come from, you might be wondering? Well, ANIMA RES had been working on a commissioned project for an interactive film about the heart, and in doing so, had developed some of their own ideas about how best to demonstrate the workings of the heart. And when they saw the AR technology, the idea for INSIGHT HEART came together. “Maybe it was a coincidence,” Sam told us, “or a mixture of things happening together; we were fascinated with the holograms, and we decided to start from the Heart.” Pablo, was intrigued by heart conditions, and the company already had discussed the desire to create technology that approached the medical field in an educational and interactive way. The INSIGHT HEART was therefore the perfect project to combine all of their interests and desires into one potentially revolutionary project.
They quickly learned, however, that being ahead of the technological curve comes with certain challenges. For example, the Microsoft HoloLens was not even available in Germany when the ANIMA RES team wanted to start development. However, they didn’t let that stop them, and after some struggles, they acquired a HoloLens, and the INSIGHT HEART project took off.
Utilizing some of their own digital assets they had created in the past, ANIMA RES worked to create tech demos and visuals for an AR heart, knowing that they wanted it to look “perfect: a perfect heart.” We believe they succeeded in this, creating an impressive product that is hallmarked by its powerful, photorealistic graphics. Once they had a working model, they sought feedback from medical students, professors, and doctors to review their development and, shortly after the initial INSIGHT HEART prototype was reviewed for the first time, they built the UI and implemented a functional app to accompany it.
Once launched in Microsoft’s HoloLens app store, the INSIGHT HEART quickly received positive reviews. Even medical AR pioneer Dr. Rafael Grossman, a name you probably recognize if you’ve been reading ARinMED for a while, approached ANIMA RES after seeing the app and told them that he was impressed with their work, and proposed possible collaborative efforts in the future. Sam felt that Dr. Grossman was “the ideal person for the kind of guidance that INSIGHT HEART needed.” It is safe to say that the team was thrilled with their early success and the bright future ahead for INSIGHT HEART.
So, what does that future entail? Sam told us that there are a lot of things that they would love to work on, mentioning the integration of electrocardiography as one of the possibilities. As a matter of fact, they have been discussing with several ECG manufacturers the idea of implementing real ECG into the app. Other possibilities include auscultation and specialized medical education models. Indeed, ANIMA RES has already been contacted by universities in Germany about developing AR medical education modules. For the time being, Version 2.0 of the INSIGHT HEART is launching “very soon,” according to the team. We don’t want to spoil any of the exciting new features yet, but when the time comes, ARinMED will be one of the first places to read about Version 2.0 of the INSIGHT HEART!
INSIGHT HEART is no longer a standalone project for ANIMA RES. The INSIGHT LUNG is in development as we speak, and we are very much looking forward to reviewing that project as well. Even though they have seen their INSIGHT HEART app take off and have experienced the demand that exists for it, the team has no intention of making it a paid app. “This is much more important than making $0.99 out of an app,” Sam said. The fact that their app is paving the way for more AR projects and developments in the field of medicine is enough for them, and we think that’s admirable.
Clearly the ANIMA RES team was one of the first to see the value augmented reality can add to the field of medicine and we believe they recognize that their efforts on INSIGHT HEART will lead to many more AR projects and developments that will benefit the field of medicine. We expect ANIMA RES, as an early-entrant with proven medical AR app development skills, to become a preeminent player in this space. As participants throughout the medical industry and academia begin to more deeply understand and capitalize on the almost limitless potential AR has in the field of medicine, ANIMA RES, with the foresight and expertise shown through INSIGHT HEART, is well-positioned to become a very busy AR developer in the field of medicine.
ANIMA RES has demonstrated that successful development of ground-breaking AR medical technology doesn’t necessarily require the backing of a corporate giant – proving that an innovative group with a good tech team, a good idea and a passion to make a difference can become an important and successful player in the AR space. Medical augmented reality is fortunate to have such a passionate and innovative team like ANIMA RES as an AR pioneer!
We want to thank the ANIMA RES team for their time and for the amazing work that they do.
What excites you about AR in medicine? What’s your next AR project? What would you like to see companies like ANIMA RES develop next? Let us know in the comments section.
COMING SOON: One of the first previews of INSIGHT HEART 2.0! STAY TUNED!