Aside from novelties like smart bird feeders and camera-equipped ovens, a corner of the world’s biggest tech event is inviting attendees to meet their virtual twins.
The ambitious “Living Heart” and “Living Brain” initiative at the Las Vegas Convention Center at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the result of French software company Dassault Systèmes.
Both are attempts to use the digital world to improve the physical world.
Like an engineer designing an airplane or car on a computer in 3D before the actual work begins, the concept of a “digital twin” aims to predict how a person will perform in a real-world scenario.
In the case of Dassault, the goal is to apply the technology to healthcare.
“My daughter was born with a very rare clinical heart defect,” senior director Dr Steve Levine told Sky News.
“I, like most parents, watched a little helplessly as some of the best doctors were really guessing at what might work.
“It dawned on me that they really didn’t understand the feature — and didn’t have the tools to solve a problem they hadn’t seen before.
“If we can give engineers a fully functioning jet to experiment with, why can’t we give doctors a fully functioning heart?”
Visitors to the company’s CES booth can don augmented reality headsets to hold, rotate and squeeze 3D-printed replicas of hearts and brains.
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If they do, their movements are reflected in real time on their own digital entertainment, displayed on a connected touchscreen that measures their heart rate and projects it back to the virtual clone.
The idea is to demonstrate the process of creating a virtual twin and how the results can be used to help doctors and surgeons in the field.
In an interview with Ian King Live, Dr Levine explained: “Engineers can predict the way a car is likely to crash, fix weak points before it actually goes into production, and we can start doing that in healthcare now.
“We can start to predict how a treatment will affect a real body and apply it to a real body before trying it.
“With a virtual twin, you can do the surgery ahead of time, optimize the surgery, so when you go into the operating room, you can really know that you did the best surgery and performed it.”
Researchers are already using the “living heart” to test potential treatments before proceeding.
The technology is being used around the world, including at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.