Three tech innovations that will save lives

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Think Uber and Snapchat have had a huge impact on our lives? When it comes to incredible tech innovations, we have only just started to scratch the surface. What’s to come goes way beyond apps and social media – here are three incredible advancements that are set to change the face of healthcare and save lives.

Robotic diagnostics

Imagine a doctor in Melbourne examining a patient from 1000km away. Deakin University has developed a remote ultrasound robot to do just that. It works using 3D-vision and two-way audio and means a patient would no longer need to go to the sonographer for ultrasounds of internal organs. The haptics give the medical examiners a sense of virtual touch, so they can examine patients accurately, and the patient and examiner can communicate while in consultation. The Haptics-Enabled Robot (HER) for remote ultrasound diagnostics was created by Deakin’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI) in partnership with Telstra.

How it will save lives

According to Professor Saeid Nahavandi, director of the IISRI, ‘It will increase the availability of ultrasound diagnosis for regional patients, which is incredibly important, but it will also minimise potential errors, saving time that might be spent having the patient re-scanned or transported to a regional hub.’ Many remote communities would benefit from an ultrasound robot, giving much needed medical support in under-resourced areas. The system has already been successfully tested between Melbourne and rural towns. This advancement will increase ultrasound availability nationally, and create new jobs in technology manufacturing, diagnostics, research and development.

3D printing

A 3D printer enables a user to print three-dimensional objects in successive layers. The item can be almost any shape and is created using a 3D model designed using digital software. This type of printing is not new, but the technology is developing in exciting ways. Originally the 3D ink was an acrylic substance that turned solid after being exposed to ultraviolet light, but now it’s possible to print in many materials including plastic, metal and even biological tissue.

How it will save lives

As the technology has been refined, 3D printing has been developed to support many industries, including medicine. Through 3D bioprinting, researchers at Deakin University say it will be possible in the future to produce complex human body parts such as blood vessels and kidneys using a patient’s own cells. People are already experimenting with printing bone and cardiac tissues that are tailored to and implanted in patients. As one example, Associate Professor Abbas Kouzani from Deakin says, ‘Medical imaging has been used to scan a patient’s injured skull, and the resulting 3D model has been used to print a customised skull patch for the patient.’

Drone delivery

The days of the good old postman could be numbered if drone delivery becomes ubiquitous. The technology would enable you to have something delivered door-to-door, efficiently and quickly (travelling around 80km per hour). Drone systems have been proven to work, however the opportunities to use drones are limited in many countries by air-space regulations. Australia Post has trialled drone delivery, and their next step is to apply to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to start delivering parcels.

How it will save lives

Drone delivery will set a new standard in delivery service, with the potential to bring something to your doorstep on-demand in a matter of hours, avoiding delays like traffic or other obstacles. Having precious cargo fly in a safe route through the sky will mean that emergency medical supplies, from transplant organs to rare blood, can be delivered to those in need. This would have the most impact in developing countries, military zones and remote areas, where the distribution of health care can be uneven and supplies difficult to transport on road.

Open up a world of opportunity by studying engineering at Deakin, where you will gain hands-on experience working with robotics, health technology, drones and  3D printing.

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Professor Saeid Nahavandi
Professor Saeid Nahavandi

Director, Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI), Deakin University
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